Protomagia – May 1st

By Thanos Voudouris

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Ακολουθούν Ελληνικά 🇬🇷Protomagia (May 1st) is International Labour Day.  It is one of the major holidays in Greece celebrating not only the Worker’s Day but also celebrating flowers and nature. Traditionally, Greeks go out to the countryside for picnics, collecting flowers, and participating in flower festivals around the neighborhoods.  Protomagia has a deep meaning and signifies something more in the hearts of Greeks.

The custom is weave a colorful May flower wreath, and decorating by hanging it outside the front door. Daisies are the typical flowers used for making the hand-weaved wreath, as well as poppies, roses, carnations lilacs, gardenias and any field flowers that are in abundance. The wreath signifies the power of nature and its blessing inside the home.

The wreaths adorn the doors of houses until the day of St. John the Harvester (June 24). On that day, neighbors are gathered and build a big fire burning the wreaths –  the fire of the saint John.

Protomagia has its roots in ancient Greece, celebrating Spring and nature. May (Maios, Μάϊος)  took its name from the Goddess Maja, whose name comes from the ancient word Maia, nurse and mother.

May 1st is dedicated to the goddess of agriculture Dimitra and her daughter Persephone. Persephone was held in the underworld by Hades and this day she emerged to the earth marking the blooming of nature and the birth of summer.

Another ancient celebration is Anthestiria (flower festival), which is inspired by the ancient festival that was held in Athens in honour of Dionysus, the god of theatre. It was also considered the celebration of souls, plants and flowers during which the re-birth of man and nature was celebrated. Anthistria is celebrated big in Cyprus and glorified in a flower parades with beautifully decorated floats.

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