The 1st of May, known as “Protomagia”, is a time of celebration throughout all of Greece. It is a day off for everyone, similar to our American “Labor Day”. Living in Thessaloniki for half of my life, it was a trip which got me in touch with nature, and most importantly, my ancestral roots.
In Ancient times Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, had her daughter abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld. In her anger for losing her precious daughter, the flowers withered and died, plants stopped growing, and the land became desolate. While her daughter was with Hades, in the underworld, it was Fall and Winter on earth. But when Persephone returned, it became Spring and Summer. Demeter was happy so nature was in full bloom. That is how the seasons changed.
Greek families enjoy picnics in the countryside, where wild flowers cover the hillsides, and mother nature is celebrated. My family tradition is to ask everyone if they “caught the May season”. My grandmother used to say “Paidi mou, epiases to Maei?” Which meant did I go out in the fields and collect wild flowers. Once, the flowers were collected, we braid them into wreaths of colorful shapes and sizes. The flower wreath is later hung outside the door of our homes. Collecting flowers and putting them on your door welcoming mother nature. One of the many Greek traditions in my family that I will never forget and will always continue to implement in America too!