Kalo Mina! On every first of each month, Greeks bestow this wish on each other. On the first of March, something else happens too. Peter came home yesterday with a bracelet on his wrist that Kyria Anna tied. He said his best pal Sylvia has two: she brought one from home and she got one at school. Then, this morning, Kyria Soula, our school bus teacher and perhaps the kindest person I have met in all of Greece, put one on Michael’s arm and also gave one to me.
Kyrie Aleko, our funny, kind, awesome school bus driver, told me about this Greek spring custom. March is widely considered to be the first month of Spring in Greece; everyone hopes March brings lots of wonderful sunshine. And to protect themselves from being burned by this hot, Greek sun, Greeks, especially kids, wear the March Bracelet.
The “Marti” (the Greek word for the month of March is Μαρτιοσ) weaves red and white string together and may have an evil eye charm or other bling on it. Red is for life and passion; white is for purity. The bracelet is to be worn from the first of March until you see the first birds returning from migration or the first blossoming tree, all celebrating the arrival of Spring. This is a custom that dates back to ancient times.
How you say goodbye to the bracelet at the end of March varies. Some people hang them in fruit trees, so the trees remain healthy and bear lots of fruit. Some people hang them in trees so the swallows can use the thread for their nests.
Tradition dictates that the bracelets be given as gifts; their powers work better this way.
Demetri and I saw a cherry tree in bloom in the chic downtown Kolonaki neighborhood yesterday. But we are still going to wear our bracelets until the end of the month.