Welcome to GL!
Just last week I was sitting at a cafe with my father enjoying a cup of coffee and sharing a galaktoboureko (Greek custard and pastry). We were sitting outside soaking up the sun on this late June day, being the end of the first month of an Australian winter. I was explaining to dad that when traveling in Greece a few years ago, I had learned some new words, one of which was Alcyonides.
In Greece, the Alcyonides is the name for the two weeks in winter from just after Christmas to the middle of January, when the skies are clear, the sun shines, and the days are windless, beautiful and calm. This 14 day period takes place 7 days either side of the shortest day of the year.
We were indeed experiencing the Southern Hemisphere Alcyonides whilst sipping our coffee and enjoying our sweet. I was transported to the time when my family and I were staying in Ancient Olympia in the middle of January (northern Winter), and experienced first hand this exact phenomenon, sitting in t-shirts and soaking up the winter sun.
This morning I walked from my home to a cafe at a nearby suburb and again found myself thinking about our holiday, especially with the beautiful winter days that we are experiencing here at the moment. Whilst waiting in line to order my coffee, I thought fondly of our trip as the Halcyon Days. In that moment I had an epiphany that Halcyon was the English interpretation of the Greek word of Alkyonides. There it was, a flash of lightning, a moment of clarity and truth. It was the translation of the Greek word that had been on my mind for the last few days.
In Greek mythology, the Alkyonides were the seven daughters of Alcyoneus who was slain by Heracles. The daughters, in despair, threw themselves into the sea and were transformed into kingfisher birds.
Another myth tells the story of a devoted and loving couple Alcyone (kingfisher) and her husband Ceyx, who sacreligiously called each other ‘Zeus’ and ‘Hera’. This angered the gods, and Ceyx’s ship was struck with a thunderbolt. On learning this, Alcyone threw herself into the sea. The Gods changed them both into Halcyon birds. It is believed that this two week period allowed Alcyone, now a kingfisher, to lay her eggs and make a nest on the beach safely, without wind and waves.
Walking back from the cafe on this beautiful winter’s day, I came across two little birds intertwined on the footpath, playing joyfully, and I thought, yes, these are indeed the Halcyon Days!