December 14: Halcyon Days begin
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. Where did “Halcyon Days” come from? The bird’s name derives from a myth recorded by Ovid. According to the story, Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone, who was married to Ceyx, the king of Thessaly. It’s a longer story but let’s just say that it ends tragically with Ceyx drowning at sea. Grieving Alcyone was about to throw herself into the sea to join her beloved husband. But the gods took pity on the pair, transforming them into halcyons, with the power to still the stormy seas for 14 days near the time of the winter solstice while they hatched their young. (For this reason, mariners credit the kingfisher, or “alcyon bird,” with the power to calm storms and raging seas.) 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.