The first month of Spring. The month of the return of the swallows, victory of light over darkness. Before the first of January in 46 B.C. New Year was celebrated the 1 of March, traces of this is still prominent through all out Greece today not just in Crete. March the month of promise of summer but still holds some cold and frosty days we all must be cautious for winter has not had its final word yet!
Crowns out of flowers are made and decorate beds, little girls icons. The ill on the first day of March in Crete are beaten gently with vine branches the sacred vine of Dionysus and Jesus Christ, after the gentle beating the patient takes the vine home and sets fire to it on Easter Sunday in this way the victory of life over death is guaranteed. Many poems and rhymes are sang on this day to cure people and live stock that suffered through winter and have not recovered.
March arrived today, change your hide, grow and become beautiful, change your garments and to the sky you shall reach!
The tradition of making a bracelet out of red and white thread is not only found here in Crete but also in other Balkan countries. Very probably a tradition that is very old for St.John did not approve of it! Traditionally these bracelets are woven by women for their children to protect them having left the threads out all night under the starry night and bathed the threads in the light of the moon before making the precious bracelets. During the first days of March traditionally in Crete the women also make bread and sweets in shape of swallow nests, a treat for the family and guests.
The wholly 40 saints that suffered in the 4 century associated as patrons of vegetation although they are military saints. On this day the young girls of Crete would take their silk worms to the sea lift their skirts walk into the sea holding their silk worms up and count 40 waves to pass to bless their worms! 40 the years of the Israelite’s in the desert, 40 the days a newly born infant stays home with its mother before stepping out, 40 the days of lent, 40 the days it takes for the soul to make its way into the under world etc. 40 is a number of new beginnings, the 40 saints are young with no beard, handsome and young they will encourage new beginnings and help those who work the land and grapevine. On the 9 of March while the men tend to the vines women collect 40 herbs to prepare the 40 herbal tea much loved in Crete that is very powerful and potent. Sarandavotano is the name of this tea or Sarandadentri one must try this tea!
The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is celebrated. Spring is here, a special bank holiday with many feasts all through the island. Flowers, many flowers dedicated to the mother of Christ lilies are offered and left in churches for a miracle is conceived, for life is celebrated. On this day people consume fish and alcohol usually cod if no fresh fish was available. In local tavernas or village squares whole families and friends meet to celebrate life, the pure miracle of life.