Friday, 3 May 2013

April 30 – May first, sorry, May 7th

(Flowers at Profet Illias)

Because the Chinese New Year is so often depicted in the media, most people are aware that the Chinese live by their own calendar; but they are not the only people to do so. Even in Europe there are different calendars. The Orthodox church has never accepted the Gregorian calendar which is used by most of the world; rather it still follows the Julian calendar that was introduced by Julius Caesar. For this reason the Orthodox Easter falls on the same day as catholic Easter only once in four years.

This year Easter in Greece is extremely late: on May fifth. And because the weather is already pretty warm, we might get the hottest Easter ever. This year the Holy Week that is celebrated before Easter could easily be called a Holy Heat Wave Week. It started last Palm Sunday and will end after Good Friday with Holy Saturday.

Yesterday the mercury crept up way above 25 ºC. When I was watering the garden I saw a bird following the water and when the water formed a pool the bird jumped in to have some fun in his little bath. I am no bird watcher and I have no idea what kind of sturdy bird dared to come so close to me and even to challenge the many cats around my house just to enjoy a cooling bath. Its colour was grey like a sparrow, although its plumage looked more silky and finer and he wore a slightly red cap on his head.

Now I regret not having photographed him, as I also regret that last night I did not walk to the beach to take a photograph of the sea that was so flat that the reflections of the coloured lights in Turkey stretched as far as the beach here.

Today, when in Holland a King is crowned, on Lesvos the mercury threatens to rise above 30 ºC. The birdwatchers, now in large numbers on the island, gathering on the roads with their heavy cameras and binoculars hoping to spot a rare bird, won’t be happy with this exceptional hot weather. In Holland there is an expression for when it is really hot weather: the sparrows nearly fall off the roof! 

There are also a certain number of flower lovers on the island. They must be thankful, because the warm weather has coaxed plenty of flowers out of the moist ground: tulips, orchids, wild gladiolus, peonies. Many more flowers seem to have multiplied since last year and some places like the chestnut wood above Agiasos or on the Profet Illias above Parakila (from where the yellow rhododendrons stream down towards the pine woods) are so rich with flowers that you may believe you are in paradise.

These groups of tourists, so occupied with the miraculous scenery of Lesvos, probably do not realise that they are in the midst of the Holy Week ­­– that many Greeks go daily to church, and that they officially eat only shell fish and vegetables and that from Good Friday until Easter Night they may only keep themselves alive with fruit. 

Another exceptional thing that occurs this year because of the late Easter is that May First also falls in the Holy Week. May First in Greece is the celebration day of flowers and people will make garlands and visit nature and the restaurants. It can’t be that much of a celebration when you have to fast and possibly it does not suit such a sober week. For that reason the government has decided that the May First  celebrations will be postponed until May seventh, a day after Easter Monday.

I cannot believe that they have done this. For me it is like officially postponing spring for one week. So the Greek officials who are traditionally on holiday on this first day of May are giving themselves this May first as well as an extra free day next week.

I am wondering if they will then dine abundantly, because of what has been eaten on Easter. Easter Monday is often used as an After Easter Party Day, so it will be only on the next day that they can give their stomach some peace. But then it will be May First! But how many people will have the money to party for three consecutive days? Have I interpreted this right?

Lots of Greeks will visit their family during Easter here on the island and the stream of foreign tourists has also begun. The summer season has now really started and with Easter all hotels, restaurants and shops will be opened. Holy Week or not, May First or not, those tourists also have to go for dinner and can eat everything they like because they are not fasting. And so we suddenly go from the quiet winter directly into a hot and busy summer. Only the spring flowers are witness to the fact that it’s only just spring. Kalo Paska!

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2013

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