Protomaya -1st day of May in Greece

In Greece, the first day of May, or “Protomaya”, as in many other countries, is equivalent to the Labor Day. Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national holiday in several European countries. It is an important day and we celebrate the achievements of workers that protested and achieved the legal establishment of the 8 hour work per day.

On this day, spring and nature are also celebrated! In the Greek countryside you will see people going out for a picnic or just for a walk to pick flowers. The most common aspect of modern May Day celebrations is the preparation of a flower wreath with wild flowers, although as a result of urbanization there is an increasing trend of buying wreaths from flower shops. The flowers are placed on the wreath against a background of green leaves and the wreath is hung either on the entrance of our houses/apartments or at the balcony. It remains there until midsummer night. On that night, we set bonfires known as Saint John fires and we throw the wearths in them, after that youths leap over the flames consuming the flower wreaths.

The custom of Protomaya (May 1st) has its roots in ancient Greece and it celebrates spring and nature with a flower festival. Maios (May), the last month of Spring and took its name from the Goddess Maia, a goddess who took her name from the ancient word Maia, the midwife and mother.

May, according to Greek folklore, has two meanings: the good and the bad, rebirth and death. The custom celebrates the final victory of summer against winter as the victory of life against death go back at the ancient times and accumulated at the first day of May. This day was also dedicated to the goddess of agriculture Demeter (Dimitra) and her daughter Persephone, who this day emerges from the underworld and comes to earth back to her mother.

Her coming to earth from Hades marks the blooming of nature and the birth of summer. Another ancient celebration that Protomaya has its roots is Anthestiria, a celebration to honor the Dionisos (the Greek God of theater, parties and wine) a festival of souls, plants and flowers, celebrating the rebirth of man and nature.

In several villages across Thessaly and Epirus, residents walk around holding a tree trunk, covered with yellow daisies. The trunk, is also called the Mayoxilo, its encircled in a wreath made from green branches. The young men carrying it wear white clothes and red scarves as they walk around the village streets singing songs about May.

On this day you may see many parades and other festivities throughout the country. It is a national holiday which means that everything is closed, with the exception of cafes and restaurants. Expect to have travel delays, demonstrations (typically peaceful), the ever popular “apergia” or strikes, and, of course, heavy traffic!

Greece is a beautiful place to visit with so much to see and do. Choose to stay away from the hassle of the big cities and spend Protomaya in Meteora. Discover together with us the uniqueness and the beautifulness of this magical place!

Source: – The Greek Custom of Protomagia ~ The May Flower Wreath