Mother Figures in Modern Greek Art
Mother as an inspiration for Modern Greek Art!
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers in Greece and all around the world!
May Day has its roots in antiquity. It is the first day of May and signifies the commencement of spring celebrations. According to tradition, May took its name from the Roman deity Maia, named by the Greek word Maia (Μαία), which means nanny and mother.
Τhe first of May is a public holiday in Greece and it is celebrated with various customs all over the country. The most famous one has its roots to ancient Greece and is the making of the May wreath (Μαγιάτικο στεφάνι). The wreath is made from a variety of handpicked flowers and is traditionally hung on the front door. It is supposed to bring people closer to nature and keep the ‘evil eye’ at bay whilst it holds a significant symbolic value, associated with the victory of summer over winter and ultimately the power of life over death.
On the Aegean Islands, the girls wake up at dawn and take flowers which they have gathered the previous evening to the village wells; from there, they bring back the “silent water” (αμίλητο νερό), named like so because they carry it back without talking. When at home they wash themselves with it for good luck!
In the villages of Corfu, residents walk around holding the mayoxilo (μαγιόξυλο), a cypress trunk, wrapped with green branches and yellow daisies, singing and dancing in honour of May.
Another popular tradition is jumping over fires: on the eve of the 1st of May, while the sun sets, young and older women gather, light fires and dance in patterns around the fires, while singing traditional songs for May Day. The young children, after wetting their hair and clothes, jump over the fires in a symbolic act of driving away sickness and winter and leaving behind everything bad.
Easter traditions in Greece
Orthodox Easter is filled with different customs and traditions related to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Many of these are still followed and celebrated all around Greece during the Holy Week (Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα), with the participation in each also being an opportunity for a social gathering.
One of the most popular traditions is dyeing eggs in a bright red colour. The custom originated amongst the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red to honour the blood of Christ. One can find many stories linked to the custom, most of which are associated with female figures, such as Mary Magdalene or Virgin Mary, and their connection to the crucifixion of Christ. In any case, the custom was adopted by the Christian Church and red eggs became a symbol of the resurrection.
Palm Sunday in Greece
On the Sunday before Easter and right before the beginning of the Holy Week (Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα in Greek), the Christian Church celebrates one of its most joyous holy days of the year. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Having heard of the miracle, the people went out to meet him, welcoming him carrying palms.
All around the world, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May; however, here in the UK it comes a little earlier…
Playing with Greek Gods at the British Museum
Last week, we were very happy to be collaborating with the Athens-based educational team My Roots in an exciting new workshop. Our little participants had the opportunity to work in a special room at the British Museum, opened especially for us, giving us access to numerous ceramics. Inspired by those, the children created their own pieces of art experimenting with the red and black figure technique, learnt about mythology and shared their views on creativity and why knowing about our past is so important.
We can’t wait to do it again and share more details with you all soon.
Have you ever wondered why we fly kites on Clean Monday?
Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera in Greek) is one of the most important and eagerly anticipated Greek celebrations. It marks the end of the playful Carnival season and the commencing of the Great Lent, the 50day fasting period which ends on Orthodox Easter Sunday. Kathara Deftera, a public holiday both in Greece and Cyprus, is celebrated through various local customs and traditions, including the consumption of shellfish and other culinary fasting delights as well as a number of outdoor activities (Koulouma), the most popular of which is making and flying kites.
February 9th – International Greek Language Day
Ever thought you speak Greek but don’t know it?
Why is February so short?
Have you ever wondered why February has less days than the other months?