That means “Good Month!” in Greek and it’s what people say to each other on the first of every month, to invite luck for the 30 or so days to come. When I lived in Greece I loved it that every shopgirl (that’s a sexist word but I can’t think of the equivalent–Retail Attendant?) or grocery clerk would wish me a good month each 1st. It’s one of those little things that reminds me we’re all in this world together, doing the best we can, and looking for a little extra good fortune to come our way.
March, though, is a tough month. Just ask Caesar. Here in Miami Beach the weather is gorgeous–breezy and warm–but we’re getting waves of invading Spring Breakers, a phenomenon that brings its own annoyances. (In late Feb it’s the families on school vacation, in March the college kids in skirts so short I’m not quite sure they count as clothing, and all along the snowbirds, and suddenly it takes you an hour to drive across the causeway, and one can only stare at a line of massive cruise ships for so long before the imagination turns to ptomaine poisoning.) Elsewhere, March is coming in like a lion–my aunt in Massachusetts was complaining of snow, then freezing rain this weekend. Out like a lamb, we’ll see. I know what the groundhog said, but I’m skeptical.
With apologies to T.S. Eliot, I always think March is the cruelest month. In April you can smell Spring in the air and if you work in education, like I did, the academic year is barreling to a close so you barely have time to notice the weather. But in March you’ve had three, maybe four, long months of winter, the stores and magazines are filling up with resort clothes that you can’t afford, meant to be worn on trips you don’t have the time or money to take, and summer seems so far away. In all my years in New York I found that if I had been on a nice long winter trip somewhere–say, India over New Year’s–I could get through March fine. If not, my endurance was sapped and I would sit around wondering whether this was really going to be my life, year after year, a seemingly endless winter. Wherever you live, March is stark; it really throws whatever is going on in your life, whether it be good or bad, into high relief.
This March, I’m pretty happy, I have to say (crowds excepted) and I have a few little escapist weekends planned to get me through to full-on Spring. But I still feel a little less than energetic, still have that fatigue that comes from long nights and short days. So I’m trying to embrace March as spring cleaning, a new beginning. I’m inspired by two things: first, the Greek (and, a little research tells me, Bulgarian and Romanian) tradition of tying red and white bracelets onto kids’ wrists on the first of March. In Greece, it’s often said this is done to prevent sunburn, and I remember wearing mine until it fell off. But on the blog Orthodoxmom.com, the writer recalls wearing the bracelet until Easter, when her grandmother would tie them to the pan in which the lamb was roasting, and they would burn up and disappear, “just like our sins do because of Christ’s Resurrection.” And from what I’ve seen on Bulgarian and Romanian sites (including the adorable image of a Martitsi-wearing cat from balkantraveler.com), elsewhere in the Balkans the bracelets (called Martia, Martitsi, Martenzi, etc) are worn for a shorter time and to invite general luck, and sometimes tied to trees for birds to find and spread the luck. If anyone has worn one of these, I’d love to hear your experience. And whatever the reason you might wear a bold red-and-white bracelet, I dig it–love the barber-stripe color combination.
My other source of inspiration is a series of emails I’ve been getting from various Greek churches inviting parishioners to come help spruce up the churches in anticipation of Lent. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Manhattan is having their pre-Lenten cleaning on March 3d, for example, and the Vespers of Contrition service on Sunday. The bulletin states that this service “offers us an opportunity to redirect our thoughts and prayers towards repentance and forgiveness.”
I have a load of sheets swishing around in the washing machine right now (one thing I LOVE about Spring Break in Florida is that it allows my BFFs who still work in academia to come visit, so I’m sprucing up the guest room). I don’t know how clean my apartment will get this March. But I am going to attempt to tidy up and bring order to other aspects of my life. I will try to redirect my thoughts towards repentance and forgiveness. And I’m going to do my taxes and get some long-overdue highlights in my hair (no, those are not a pre-requisite for Great Lent, but they sure feel like a new beginning!). I’m going to reach out to the friends I’ve been neglecting in my winter hibernation. And I have faith that we’re all going to have a Kalo Mina.