Once again, spring is finally upon us, after a long and drich winter. Like every year, we will celebrate May Day the Greek way–with a nice wreath of flowers. This year, we’ll have the wee one to help with that (for once, we won’t scold her when she cuts flowers but will actually encourage her!)
Celebrating Protomagia then and now
As Tripsavvy and Flymetothemoontravel report, flower shows and festivals are common in Greece on this day and every major municipality will put on something to commemorate the day. The city of Heraklion on the big island of Crete puts on a city flower show—and has been doing so for the past few thousand years, as the ancient Minoans are believed to have celebrated one of their two major “New Year” celebrations about this time (the other was in October).
The flower tradition has also been influenced by Anthesteria, one of the oldest celebrations, held in honor of god Dionysus (Bachus). This ancient Greek flower festival took place around the February full moon. Lasting for three days, it celebrated the beginning of spring and ancient Greeks would carry flowers to the sanctuaries and temples.
To many, the holiday still commemorates rebirth, celebrating the victory of life against death. During this time the Greek land is blessed with lush green grass and blooming, fragrant flowers, so it makes perfect sense that this is a perfect time to marvel at the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
One very common way of celebrating the day is the making of a May wreath out of the local wildflowers. These are then hung on doorways, balconies, in chapels, and many other places. As you are driving through the towns and villages, keep an eye out for them hanging from balconies and walls. They are generally left to dry and are often burned at about the time of the Summer Solstice, St John the Harvester’s feast day on June 24th.
I know that for some this is a day when they celebrate the International Workers’ Day of May. But to me, it’s the day when we celebrate nature’s beauty and its freshness. Cut flowers from the fields and weave a colorful wreath, hang it outside your house door and welcome the power of nature inside your home. Happy 1st of May!
If you’re more interested in the International Workers’ Day of May and the Haymarket Affair, you can read all about it in my previous May Day feature. And if you’re interested in finding out more about Anthesteria and Thergelia, you can check out my last year post on the subject.