May 1st: celebrating nature

Today, I’m not going to take you to any archaeological site. Instead, we’re going to Hymettus Mountain, very near Athens, to celebrate May 1st in a pre Covid-19 fashion.

May first has been traditionally celebrated by going out in nature. Everyone spends the day outdoors; families all together, the young people in large groups, couples on their own or with others.

Greek family picnic

People have fun; kids explore and play in the woods, meadows or olive groves; grownups chat, rope swings are still hung if there is a sturdy branch to hang it from (another anient custom that I may go into some other time).


Ancient Greek vase, showing a woman pushing another on a swing. Middle 5th century BCE, Berlin, Antikensammlung.

Later everyone will gather for a lavish picnic lunch and a nap in the shade of some convenient tree.

The custom dictates that everyone gathers flowers to make the May wreath; whether well or poorly made, the wreath is a must and will be hung on the door for good luck until midsummer, when it will be burnt in a bonfire, signaling the end of spring and the beginning of the hottest time of the year. This year, those with little access to flowers made some unconventional ones, to say the least.

May 1st 2020 covid-19 wreaths

Two wreaths made this year: on the left, a traditional one, with wildflowers and garden flowers. On the right one made with paper, ribbons and pieces of children’s puzzle.

Wishing you all a pleasant month of May and let’s hope next year we’ll all be able to spend it in the great outdoors.



Image sources:

Ancient Greek swing

Modern wreaths: a. unknown, b. Nadia Papapanagiotaki

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