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Halcyon Days: The Unique Greek Weather Phenomenon

Alkyonides Days aka Halcyon Days
A sunny day in Athens. Credit: Greek Reporter

Greece is reputed to have almost 300 days of sunshine a year, even during the winter when the unique phenomenon of the Halcyon Days aka Alkyonides Days takes place creating a mini summer break amidst the winter.

The phrase, translated into “Halcyon days” in English, has a literal meaning of calm, peaceful days. It is the translation of ‘Alkyonides Meres’.

The Alkyonides Days take place from December 15 to February 15 each year, and most often between January 16-31. During this time, the days are typically sunny, with clear skies and no wind, with high temperatures not typical for the season.

During Alkyionides Days, in the midst of winter, temperatures that climb up to over 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) are typical during a week.

Where does the name Halcyon Days come from?

Alkyonides Days are named after the bird Alcyone (halcyon) its eggs during this time of year in the cracks of seaside rocks. The allegorical meaning is of the homonymous star called “Alcyone” in the Pleiades constellation.

During this period, the star Alcyone culminates its orbit during the evening hours and therefore during the cloudless nights in January, the star is visible in the cluster of the Pleiades, located in the highest part of the celestial dome.

As a result of this simple natural event, all the consecutive days that the Alcyone star is visible were named ‘Alkyonides’.

From a meteorological point of view, the Alkyonides Days are created as a result of the combination of the latitude of Greece during these days of the winter, heightened barometric pressure, a lack of wind, cool temperatures, and intense sunshine.

The Myth

There are several myths surrounding the phenomenon of the Alkyonida Days, the most common of which is the story of Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind.

Alcyone was the devoted wife of Ceyx, King of Thessaly in central Greece. Ceyx ruled his kingdom with justice and in peace. Alcyone and Ceyx were admired by gods and mortals alike for their physical beauty, and profound love for each other.

Zeus punished the arrogant couple who dared to compare themselves to gods by plunging Ceyx’s ship into the sea and drowning him. Alcyone lamented her loss so much that she then threw herself into the sea and drowned, determined to join her husband in the land of the dead.

The gods of Olympus were so profoundly affected by the tragic fate of the couple and their abiding love for one another that Zeus transformed the couple into halcyon birds. Yet the birds were still condemned to give birth in the winter every year.

After the waves of the sea crashed into the rocks and destroyed Alcyone’s nest and eggs, Zeus once again felt regret and ordered the winds to stop and the sun to shine for fifteen days in the heart of the winter so that Alcyone could safely lay her eggs.

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