Feature: Presidential Guard stars in celebrations for 200th anniversary of Greek Independence Day

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ATHENS, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Greece's Presidential Guard starred in the celebratory events for the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence against Ottoman rule on Thursday.

The members of the elite unit of the Greek army hoisted the Greek national flag on the Acropolis hill and led the grand military parade in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the center of Athens.

The image of Evzones, as they are called, standing guard day and night throughout the year in front of the monument, in heavy snowfall or under the scorching sun, is a symbol of Greece for decades.

In a video released on the occasion of the anniversary by the Greek President's office, Lieutenant colonel Yorgos Besiris, the head of the Presidential Guard, and craftsmen working at the barracks of the unit opposite the Presidential mansion, made a brief presentation of its history and uniform.

The Presidential Guard was established in 1868 as an elite combatant and ceremonial unit. Since 1974, when democracy was restored in Greece after military dictatorship, it has a purely ceremonial role.

Today the men who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Presidential mansion are drawn from the Greek Army's Infantry Corps. They serve as honor guards to the Greek President and visiting foreign leaders, and also raise and lower the flag on the Acropolis on Sundays and every national holiday.

They undergo intense training to learn how to stand motionless and expressionless for a long time.

They are wearing several types of uniforms according to weather conditions or ranking, as well as traditional costumes from various parts of Greece, but their main distinctive uniform is based on the 19th era garments of Greek fighters during the War of Independence.

They are all handmade with wool, silk, cotton, sewn and maintained in workshops inside the Presidential Guard's barracks.

Fustanella, a skirt-like garment, consists of 400 pleats of white cotton fabric, which represent the number of years under Ottoman occupation for Greeks, said Evangelos Lazos, tailor at the Presidential Guard's barracks.

On top of a white shirt with wide sleeves, Evzones are wearing a white wool vest with blue cord detailed embroidery.

"There are thousands of stitches made by hand. It takes special know-how, patience and passion to do this work," Lazos said.

"The cap is made of red felt fabric and the tassel is made of silk thread. The red color symbolizes the blood of our ancestors given in the struggles for liberation and the black of the tassel symbolizes the mourning for their loss," said Lieutenant colonel Yorgos Besiris.

The uniform also includes white woolen stockings, garters made of black silk and tsarouchia, red hard leather clogs with black tassels.

"It takes about 600-650 stitches to sew a tsarouchi. We are using waxed cord like the ones they used to sew in the past," Yorgos Dermatas, a shoemaker at the small workshop inside the Presidential Guard's barracks said.

Each pair of tsarouchia weighs about three kg. Under the sole, there are dozens of nails and petals and there is a significant reason for this.

"Evzones strike the ground forcefully with their feet, so that our ancestors can hear that we are alive and free," Dermatas said. Enditem

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