Oh, those Halcyon Days in Greece! No, not those summer days that most people associate with the word. . .but the summer days of winter!
|Sunset Pantazi Beach on a winter's eve|
The summer days of winter are quite literally defined in Greece as the Halcyon Days. We are in the midst of the most amazing winter weather that we've ever experienced in our slice of Greece. These days are also known as Alcyonides in Greece; a time often considered a mini-summer break or early spring that takes place in winter. Occurring randomly - most often between December 15 and February 15 - they bring blue skies, sunshine and no wind.
|Halcyon days in Greece|
The dictionary meaning of halcyon is to describe 'calm, peaceful days' and is often used by writers and poets to refer to an idyllic time in the past. I can assure you this writer is using the term to refer to the here and now of expat life in the Greek Peloponnese.
|Morning coffee in December|
I began this post on December 15 after having walked home in shirt sleeves from a morning coffee at Pantazi Beach. Located just below our hillside home, it is about a 20-minute walk away. It is so close that we, and others who live in the area, consider it 'our beach' (as do the thousands of tourists who return repeatedly to it to spend hours of their vacations on it each summer).
On that mid-December morning we'd sat at the side of the sea, the sun bright overhead and the sky and water alternating shades of brilliant blue. The temperature was 71F/21.6C. Later in the week we returned for wine at those same patio tables to watch sunset (opening and closing photos of this post).
|Pantazi Beach on a December day|
But I quit writing for fear of jinxing a weather that seemed 'too' perfect. I suspected that it couldn't last long, and our usual wet, chilly weather would return as soon as I published this piece. Our Halcyon Days don't usually arrive until later in January. Yet, here we are in the first week of January and the weather has continued to be as perfect as it was in mid-December.
|Christmas Morning 2022|
The Halcyon Days made our Christmas Day gathering at the beach a post-card perfect one. Expats have a tradition of gathering at 'our' beach for coffee, snacks, conversation and to celebrate the season. Most of us come from climates that don't encourage beach gatherings for Christmas. This year a couple of people swam, others wore shorts and shirtsleeves were comfortable. Last year's gathering was completely different as it was a blustery, cold day. That gathering was brief, unlike this year's that stretched from late morning into the afternoon.
|Christmas 2021 - a contrast from this year|
And Legend Has It . . .
|First week of January 2023 - Agios Nikolaos|
'Yes, of course', or nai fysika, as we say here, Halcyon Days, like so much of our Greek world, began back when Greek gods ruled the earth. Let's put all scientific explanations for this weather phenomenon aside and focus on Greek mythology - it really is a much more charming explanation, because. . .
. . .Alcyone, who was daughter of Aeolus, the god of the winds, was so distraught over her husband's death in the sea, that she threw herself in the ocean to join him. The gods were so moved by her act, that they turned them both into Halcyon (alcyon) birds. Birds similar to present day European Kingfishers. The two nested in the ocean. Aeolus was so pleased that he calmed the waters until their eggs hatched.
|Halcyon Days in Agios Nikolaos|
While poets have been writing about those wistful kind of Halcyon Days for years, I happened upon a poem attributed to Chetta Achara, apparently the nom de plume of a person whose been writing poetry since 1992 that certainly seemed to fit the story told above:
At the winter solstice,
It is said,
The mythical bird
Mates in a nest floating
On the sea.
She charms the wind
And the waves
|Our olive grove - Halcyon days 2023|
We are definitely enjoying the Halcyon Days of winter at our Stone House on the Hill. We've spent hours working in the olive grove and gardens - in our shirtsleeves. Wild iris is blooming in groves and along roadsides. Cultivated flowers, among them, roses, lavender, freesias, and geraniums are in bloom. Admittedly while basking in this wonderful weather, we are a bit concerned at the lack of snowpack (as in, none) in our Taygetos Mountains and the lack of rainfall here. It could make for a very dry summer. However, rain is in the forecast. Our Halcyon magic may have run its course for the winter.
|A toast to the New Year|
I will return to our travel tales from Thessaloniki next time, but for now, we wanted to toast the New Year with you wrapped in the warmth of our Halcyon Days. Safe travels to you and yours. As always, thanks for the time you spent with us today ~ come back soon and bring friends with you!