Halcyon Days technically fall in December around the time of the winter solstice each year. Their story goes back to Ancient Greece — of love, gods and goddesses, tragedy on the seas, and birds with magical powers. Halcyon Days are kind of unique as days go. 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. Just the premise behind it makes us love December even more. We’re already swimming in memories of those long summers or that eventful Thanksgiving. Remember incredible phases when everything seemed to click — love, work, and family? Through different seasons or reasons, Halcyon Days remind us of days when we were utterly content.
History of Halcyon Days
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.
Where did the term originate? Greek legend tells the story of a bird 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.
According to the Roman poet Ovid, halcyon was the goddess Alcyone (or Halcyone) who threw herself into the sea after her mortal husband (King Ceyx) drowned. On witnessing this, the gods transformed them into birds. Each year, Alycone’s father (Aeolus, the god of winds) would keep the winds calm a week before and after the solstice so the birds can lay their eggs peacefully.
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 timeline
Aristophanes, a comic playwright in Ancient Athens, mentions the halcyon in his work “The Birds.”
Ovid writes about the myth of Halcyone and Ceyx in his celebrated work, “Metamorphoses.”
"In the cliffe of a ponde of ocean, Alcion, a see foule, in wynter maketh her neste and layeth egges” — from John Trevisa’s translation of “De proprietatibus.”
William Shakespeare uses the term figuratively to mean days of tranquility.
Halcyon Days FAQs
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.
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.
Are Halcyon Days a holiday?
Halcyon Days aren’t holidays. If you follow the source of the story, Halcyon Days fall on 14 days around the winter solstice. Figuratively, they mean any time of extended happiness or contentment.
How To Celebrate Halcyon Days
Read about the myth
Curl up with a book and deep dive into the origins of the story. You may soon find yourself down a fascinating rabbit hole of Greek mythology.
Take a nostalgic trip
That means different things for different people. Recreate a special moment from the past. Read your old diaries, watch home movies, or rediscover a hobby you once loved. Anything that takes you back to those sweet Halcyon Days.
Make new memories
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.
5 Facts About The Winter Solstice That Will Blow Your Mind
It’s actually a time, not a day
The Winter Solstice refers to the exact time when the sun is above the Tropic of Capricorn.
The day keeps changing
Since there’s no defined time for the sun to reach its lower point, winter solstice can fall anytime between December 20 to 23.
The earth tilts away from the sun
We have shorter days and longer periods of darkness because of how far the earth tilts away from the sun.
The longest night of the year
Winter solstice means the longest night of the year for the Northern Hemisphere.
But not necessarily the coldest
January is typically colder since there’s a seasonal lag between air temperatures and the amount of daylight.
Why We Love Halcyon Days
Memories of blissful times
Halcyon Days is an infinitely charming concept. They’re days to soak in the good memories. We may have the present, but special moments in the past do keep us going.
Connecting us to different times and spaces
Isn’t it wonderful to connect to stories and universes larger than ourselves? And in this instance, it happens just through the saying “halcyon days.” It brings back beautiful personal memories, but also contains a world of stories in itself.
Winter Solstice magic
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.
Halcyon Days dates