Locals had already filled the expansive town square in the heart of Nafplion by mid-morning on “Protomagia” -- the first day of May. Crowded cafes lined the long sides of the space and in the center a boisterous group of kids chased after a soccer ball. Spring, flirting for the past week, had finally made the commitment and arrived with a comely skirt of vibrant blossoms on the surrounding hills above the city.
A knot of gypsy children holding aloft wreaths of wildflowers intercepted my path. I fished out a euro coin and gave it to the youngest of the group in return for a multicolored ring of blooms. I’d hang it later from a nail on my balcony.
Passing a shop, I recognized the owner who wished me “kalo mina!” as I went by. She had wished me a “good month”, much like you would say good morning. It is common to hear that greeting on the first day of any month in Greece. And I miss hearing it here in the States. Sometimes it will pop up as a Facebook post, but that pales with the feeling you get when you hear the friendly wish from people spontaneously throughout the day.
The Greeks love to wish each other a good morning, afternoon, evening and night. You even hear people saying “kalo ksimeroma” when departing at night as a wish for a good awakening the next day. I once overheard two woman talking in the street. The first carried a large pan of stuffed tomatoes that she was carrying to the bakery for roasting. The other wished her “kalo psisimo” – a wish for good baking!
The word “kalo” can be translated as good. American English borrowed the word and reduced it to “okay.” Which is, in fact, a Greek transliteration. The initials O.K. come from the phrase “ola kala” which means everything is good. Greek immigrants in the 18th century would use the two letters in telegrams back to the old country to save money and let family know that everything was good – O.K.
But it carries a meaning deeper that means more than better than average or lovely. It connotes virtue and nobility. Calling a man “kalos” is a high compliment of integrity and honor, like the Yiddish “mensch.”
So the simple wish for a good month is really a blessing that the weeks ahead be filled with good values. Just like the May wreaths it is a reminder that we all get a fresh start, regardless of the past. And that new start it is available to us every month, every day and every moment. Rebirth is available to us always.
If you hear a cashier robotically say “have a good day” and think that they don’t actually mean it, that’s okay ;-) Feel the intent and imbue it with your own good intentions. It’s an opportunity to bring forth that blessing to yourself from within.
So, kalo mina! Have a great month. You deserve it.
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