What a winter! We’ve had stormy, thundery, blustery weather; even snow in Nicosia! Everyone’s been complaining, and we heard on the news that the last time Cyprus had such weather was over a hundred years ago in 1902…
And yet… We woke up this Sunday with brilliant sunshine trying to penetrate through the blinds. We opened the doors and the familiar smells of spring uplifted our spirits. Random little clouds scattered in the sky, the only remnant of the previous storm clouds and dark days.
No wonder folk tales say that March is Πεντάγνωμος (Pentagnomos), meaning that March has five opinions: you might wake up with sunshine or cold, snow or rain, or whatever else March decides to deliver on that day!
All over the Greek world, people created stories and poems about March that became part of everyday life. Here are just a few sayings and poems that I remember hearing as I was growing up, all of which give March a temperamental character!
- “Ο Μάρτης πότε γελά και πότε κλαίει” (Μarch sometimes laughs and sometimes cries). My mum and grandma would say this after the outbursts of March weather.
- “To Μάρτη ο ήλιος βάφει και πέντε μήνες δε ξεβάφει” (The tan you get from the March sun won’t fade for five months). As a child, I’d be told to come out of the brilliant March sunshine as the sun was thought to be so strong it would burn you without you realising it. To protect themselves from getting burnt, children and adults alike would make thin bracelets from red and white thread. This bracelet is called a ‘Μάρτης’ (‘Martis’, or March), and people still wear them today. On the last day of March, you take off your bracelet and hang it on a branch.
- A poem our parents used to recite:
To Μάρτη ξύλα φύλαε
γιατί ο Μάρτης σαν θυμώσει
μές το χιόνι θα μας χώσει
(Collect wood in March because when March gets angry, it’ll bury you in snow.)
- Another folk tale tells the story of March having two wives. One is beautiful, happy, but poor. The other is ugly, unhappy and rich. March sleeps between the two. When he turns to the beautiful one, she’s happy and laughing, and the weather is bright, dry and sunny. When he turns to the ugly one, he sees that she’s unhappy and crying. The sun disappears and it gets cloudy and rainy.
It seems that March has been sleeping with his beautiful wife over the past few days as we’ve been having beautiful spring weather!
The sunshine seems to have inspired my neighbor, Christa, to make some fresh, spring foods and she invited us round for dinner on Sunday.
Christa is meticulous with pre-Easter fasting. On every weekend before Easter, she says, we can eat olive oil and ‘οστρακοειδή’ (shellfish). She went out and bought fresh small squid. She fried half so they were crisp and crunchy; the rest she cooked with potatoes and wine.
Delicious! As I walked the few metres home across the moonlit street, I was counting my blessings at having such good neighbours and friends, such great food, amazing company… and such beautiful March weather!