In 2019, UNESCO officially declared November 26 World Olive Tree Day and added it to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The International Olive Council embraced the holiday, which is also known as World Olive Day or World Olive and Olive Oil Day. The olive tree and its products are now celebrated on this day with events in many countries.

UNESCO emphasizes the importance of the olive tree, whose branch has long “symbolized peace, wisdom and harmony.” Of course, its significance is not merely symbolic: “Conserving and cultivating the olive tree is a growing imperative as the world combats and adapts to climate change. The protection of cultural and natural heritage, including landscapes, is at the heart of UNESCO’s mission…. The aim of World Olive Tree Day is to encourage the protection of the olive tree and the values it embodies, in order to appreciate its important social, cultural, economic and environmental significance to humanity.” 

In a speech in honor of World Olive Day this year, European Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski pointed out that the olive sector provides “consumers in Europe and [all] over the world with a healthy, safe and sustainable product.” Olive products’ economic importance in olive growing countries is obvious; their culinary significance is almost immeasurable.

With acclaim for the traditional Mediterranean diet justly growing in recent years, there have been efforts to quantify the advantages of the olive oil central to it. Discussed from ancient times to the present, the health benefits of olives and olive oil have been the focus of numerous recent scientific studies. Scientists have found evidence that extra virgin olive oil helps us fight off heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, and much more. 

Researchers have also shown that olive trees can help the environment. According to the International Olive Council, for every liter of virgin olive oil produced, 10.65 kg of carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere. Olive groves are carbon sinks: a hectare of olive trees can offset the carbon footprint of one person, and world olive oil production absorbs the amount of carbon dioxide that a city the size of Hong Kong produces. 

To celebrate World Olive Tree Day this year, the International Olive Council and the government of the country of Georgia organized an international online seminar focused on trends in the international olive oil market. Speakers include representatives from the Georgian government, the International Olive Council, the European Commission, the North American Olive Oil Association, and the Culinary Institute of America.

In Greece, a number of events have been planned. For example, the Greek branch of the nonprofit organization Women in Olive Oil sponsored online talks by Greek olive oil experts on November 25. Speakers reviewed the group’s work as well as the situation in their country’s olive sector, with its 127 million olive trees producing olive oil and 37 million trees producing table olives, according to agronomist Antonis Paraskevopoulos.

To celebrate World Olive Day, the cultural foundation Routes of the Olive Tree has been working with other organizations to raise awareness about the Kalamata olive “with its wonderful taste and valuable nutritional value.” These groups are using posters, announcements, olive bread, the documentary The Olive Oil of Messinia and the film Bread and Olives “to promote Kalamata as a gastronomic destination by utilizing the internationally renowned Kalamata olive.” 

In Rethymno, Crete, the Organoleptic Laboratory is welcoming the public to an open house to honor the olive tree and its products on November 26, with a tour of its facilities (in Greek) and a tasting of award-winning olive oils (following the government’s guidelines related to COVID-19).

In Athens, the Filaios Friends of Olive Oil Society points out that olive products affect every Greek family in one way or another, with November the main period of olive production in Greece. As the Greek olive harvest and production of fresh olive oil continues, citizens of the country and the world are celebrating the olive tree’s priceless contribution to culture, cuisine, nutrition, health, the economy, and the earth.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as others interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 215 countries around the globe.

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