Coronavirus (COVID-19) has halted almost all normal every day activities and events for people worldwide, especially after the World Health Organisation named it a global pandemic earlier this week.
Many places are in quarantine and large gatherings of people have either been prohibited or strongly discouraged.
This virus pandemic came at a time when Greeks worldwide are organising and planning their celebrations of 199 years of Greek Independence.
Parades, galas, lectures, and countless other events planned by federations and organisations in the Greek community worldwide, are quickly being reconsidered and even cancelled due to the Coronavirus spread.
Greece’s Prime Minister announced that all nationwide parades which commemorate the Greek War of Independence (on March 25), will be cancelled this year to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The decision was decided after a meeting between Greece’s PM with the regional governors.
“The government will do its best to ensure that the serious cases of coronavirus are few and far between,” Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said in a televised public message on Wednesday evening.
“We have already done what is necessary to protect public health… and we call on all public and private sectors to collaborate to fight the pandemic.”
To commemorate the national day, small wreath ceremonies will be held.
The United States of America
This week the official Greek Independence Day parade in Chicago was cancelled.
This action was quickly followed by the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of Philadelphia, who announced that they will also be cancelling the Philadelphia parade. Their statements explained that the City of Philadelphia has prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people, ultimately making the parade not feasible. These decisions followed the already received news that the Evzones of the elite Presidential Guard of Greece, would no longer travel to the various destinations they visit this time of year for Independence Day celebrations.
The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York had a slightly different response, not expressively stating that its parade is cancelled, but simply postponed.
Along with the parades, various cultural and educational programs were planned. It is customary that during Greek Independence week there are discussions about our Greek heritage and gatherings to dance and share a meal with our community. While the Philadelphia Hellenic Federation has formally cancelled their events, the New York Hellenic Federation has not officially announced that their events are cancelled, just postponed.
The New York Greek Independence Day parade has not been officially cancelled by the City of New York, leaving a window for opportunity to reschedule given that the Coronavirus stops spreading.
Below is the official announcement from the Organisational Committee for Greek National Day, on the cancellation of the 25th March Greek National Day parade:
“We take this opportunity to inform the members of our community and broader Greek Australian public that it is with deep regret that we are informing you of the cancellation of the Independence Day Parade for 2020.
After lengthy discussions the Organisational Committee for Greek National Day fully understands the potential risk for the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during this event.
The decision to cancel was also based on information provided by Medical Practitioners, the Ministry of Health, and a lot of feedback from the general School population. The committee has not take this decision lightly, however understands that the safety of our community is paramount.
We recognise that the timing of this decision may have significantly inconvenienced many of you. However, this decision was made out of deep concern for the health and well-being of our children, Grandparents and the greater Greek community as well as the Melbourne community at large.”
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia released the following statement:
“Following the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcements for limiting gatherings over 500 people and given the developments of the increasing cases of Covid -19 (corona-virus) in Australia, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios in cooperation with the Organising Committees, announces the cancellation of the Parades, that were scheduled to take place in Melbourne on the 22nd and in Sydney on the 29th of March 2020.
Furthermore, His Eminence communicated with the Archiepiscopal Vicars in Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, giving them guidelines for the proceedings which will occur there for the 25th of March, in order not to jeopardise anyone from the participants.
His Eminence asks for the understanding of our fellow Greeks and the wider Australian society for this change in program, which is solely due to the responsibility of our Church not to risk the well being of the participants.
Nevertheless, next year which is a unique and historical anniversary, of the passing of 200 years from the Greek revolution, all the parades and the official events will be organised in the most exceptional way, to highlight the rich historical presence of our Orthodox tradition.”
The Hellenic Federations around the country are doing their best to handle this difficult situation and ensure the safety of their respective communities. These steps have been taken to ensure that the Coronavirus spread is limited as much as possible.
Perhaps this will fuel an even bigger and greater celebration next year in 2021, as we celebrate 200 years of Greek Independence.
*Image by Nick Bourdaniotis/Bourdo Photography (Copyright)