Halcyon Days annually falls in the month of December during the time of the winter solstice. The story of these days comes from the Ancient Greek mythology.
Halcyon Days are kind of unique celebrations. They refer to a period of happiness and calm especially in the past. Weather-wise, they are a time of calm during the winter, when storms do not occur. Although not a holiday per se, Halcyon Days are still wonderful because they define nostalgia and warmth.
Halcyon is a type of kingfisher bird that nests by the sea where sea-charming winds blow, so that its eggs are protected during the nesting period. The phrase Halcyon days today also signifies prosperity, joy, liberation and, of course, tranquility.
|December 14, 2022
|The term "Halcyon Days" refers to a period of happiness and calm, particularly in the past
Halcyon Days History:
In Greek mythology, the goddess Halcyon (Alcyone in Greek) was the daughter of Aeolus, the ruler of the winds. Aeolus lived in the caves, where winds were imprisoned. He was the one who was choosing when to let them out, depending on how the higher gods instructed him. Halcyon was married to the mortal king Ceyx of Tachis. Their love for each other was so known that even gods peeped into their privacy and heard some jokes they didn't like much (like calling each other Zeus and Hera!). Once, when Ceyx had to go to Delphi to consult the oracle of Apollo, he chose to sail there despite all the cries of his beloved Halcyon, who was terribly afraid of the sea.
Halcyon proved right because Ceyx drowned, when a huge storm took his life not far from the coast and his boat disappeared in the waves. Trying to fight the storm, aware that he was to drown, Ceyx asked Poseidon (the sea god) to bring his body to his wife's arms. In the meantime, afraid for her husband and not knowing yet what had happened, Halcyon asked Hera to ensure his safe trip. It was too late and Hera had no choice but to send for Hypnos, who instructed Morpheus, the God of Dreams, to appear in the poor woman's dreams and tell her about the tragedy.
The desperate Halcyon went to the coast where she found Ceyx's body and threw herself into the dark waves. Amazed by her love and devotion, the gods decided to save her and to transform her into a seabird. They also turned Ceyx into another kingfisher so the two could live and be together. But even in Greek mythology life was not always easy. Zeus ordered that Halcyon would lay her eggs only in winter. Having her nest near the shore, close by the spot where she found the body of Ceyx, the stormy waves kept sweeping away her eggs.
Crying and praying endlessly, Halcyon finally managed to touch Zeus's heart. Encouraged by the other Gods as well, Zeus decided to give her 14 days of good and calm weather in the middle of winter. So those two kingfisher birds, or Halcyon birds as they are also known, were able to keep their eggs safe every winter during the period that came seven days before and seven days after winter solstice. During these days Halcyon's father would keep the winds calm on the sea. Halcyon days are still celebrated in Greece, in memory of Halcyon and her sacrifice.
As the myth traveled over centuries and across countries, it took on different interpretations. The English-speaking world first came to know of it around the 14th century through translated literary texts. By the 16th century, the word halcyon stopped referring to the nesting period of the halcyon and became a phrase. In "Henry VI," Part I, Shakespeare used halcyon days to denote days of calm. The figurative usage seems to have stuck since then. Currently, the phrase "halcyon days" means any period in the past characterized by extended joy. Despite the original Halcyon Days falling in the dead of winter, we now use the phrase to denote sunny, happy days.
Halcyon Days Significance:
Halcyon Days, which have come to mean any time of happiness and contentment, are actually the 14 days around the winter solstice. According to Greek legend, the halcyon, or kingfisher, built its floating nest around the 14th of December, during which time the gods calmed the seas for the nesting and hatching time. Think Halcyon Days, and it immediately transports us to happy spaces. Good times in college with friends. A period of success and calm at work. Everyone's version of it may be different, but the general sentiment is universal to find peace and happiness in your life.
The "Halcyon Days" usually end by early January. Today, the phrase "Halcyon Days" has come to mean a sense of peace or tranquility. People often use the phrase halcyon days to refer idyllically to a calmer, more peaceful time in their past. It's also a fitting phrase for the peaceful, joyful spirit of the Christmas holidays today. However, despite the original Halcyon Days falling in the dead of winter, we now use the phrase to denote sunny, happy days. Several communities worldwide believe in the power of the winter solstice. The story of Halcyone is yet another reason to celebrate and marvel at this magical time of the year.
Greek legend tells the story of a mythical bird in the ancient Greek mythology called the halcyon. These distinctive winged creatures were known to build floating nests in the middle of the Aegean Sea. But that's not all. The ancient Greeks believed the halcyon could calm the sea's waves when nesting. Fourteen days of nesting. Fourteen beautiful days of calm seas and weather. The halcyon's nesting period usually coincided with the winter solstice, starting December 21 or 22. Skies would clear, and the weather, perfectly blissful during this time.
Aristotle's description of the mythical birds Ceyx and Alcyone were morphed into by the gods—bright blue and green and approximately the size of a swallow—beget a real-world counterparts: kingfishers. In fact, an entire subfamily of kingfishers actually bear Alcyone's name: Halcyoninae, within which is the genus Halcyon. Unlike the myth, kingfishers or Halcyon birds do not nest on the sea or along shore; rather they nest tunnels dug out along river banks and in crevices along cliffsides. The kingfishers that live most of the year in the more northern latitudes of Eurasia often migrate to the Mediterranean for the winter.
As with all mythology and lore, there are going to be inconsistencies like those above relating to Ceyx's death. In the case of Halcyon Days, there is additional inconstancy around when they are. Depending on the source, Halcyon Days straddle winter solstice—one week before for Alcyone's nesting and laying eggs and one week after for raising the chicks and teaching them to fly or they occur in the middle of winter, which would be mid- to late-January. Some throw in with a third timeframe, seeing Halcyon Days and in alignment with St. Martin's summer.
Halcyon Days Celebrations:
Greek mythology is full of amazing and intetestost tales such as this one. So use this occasion to learn more about such stories if you find the story of Halcyon Days interesting! You can also look deep into the story of these days or can look at other fascinating stories related to Greek mythology, gods, etc. So do try it as it will very interesting to learn some during this time of the year.
Use this occasion to take a nostalgic trip and indulge yourself in the sweet memories if your past to feel better now. That means different things for different people. Recreate a special moment from the past. You can do it like by reading your old diaries, watching movies which are nostalgic to you, or rediscovering a hobby you once loved. Anything that takes you back to those sweet Halcyon Days.
We love reminiscing. But it's great to flip the script to what the past means for the present. In the spirit of the occasion, remember to create Halcyon Days with your loved ones today. Hence try to take full advantage of this holiday season by spending some quality time and making some special moments with your loved ones for this winter season. So that you will have some moments to celebrate it for the next year as well.
Halcyon Days FAQs:
1. When is Halcyon Days celebrated?
Halcyon Days annually falls in the month of December during the period of winter solstice.
2. What is the meaning of 'Halcyon Days'?
The term 'Halcyon Days' refers to a time of idyll. It means an immensely happy or successful period in the past.
3. Is Halcyon Days an idiom?
We use Halcyon Days as an idiom today to remember a time of extended joy and success. In Greek mythology, the term refers to calm winds a week before and after the winter solstice. All of it was made possible by the fabled halcyon bird.