In many countries May 1st is a holiday, in some countries it signifies the beginning of spring and in others it is a workers holiday, in both cases it is usually celebrated with a day off. Although in the UK the actual holiday is the first Monday in May, giving people a nice long week end off – assuming they don’t work weekends!
Here in Greece, May Day is celebrated on the May 1st with schools, banks, offices and most shops being closed for the day. Many towns and cities have May Day parades, people can be seen barbecuing in their gardens and here on the island, it is not unusual to see a spring wreath hung on front doors.
For us, May 1st also signifies the start of the main tourist season, there have been a few planes arriving in the past couple of weeks, bringing people who want a quiet off season holiday, but from today the large tour operators start bringing people to the island too.
This means that slowly, slowly over the next month or so, the island will get busy, starting with older people and couples who tend to holiday in May and June. Next come the college students arriving in their droves looking for a good time, some of who may even stay on to work the summer in one of the many bars or nightclubs .
Then before we know it July and August are upon us, which is the height of the tourist season, when families and groups of youngsters from all over Europe – but mainly British – come to enjoy what the island has to offer. This is when the island is officially at it’s maddest!
From today husband will be working seven days a week, nine or ten hours a day for at least the next five and a half months. It is crazy that most seasonal jobs you don’t get a day off, but that’s the way it is and if you don’t take the job there is always someone who will.
Going about our daily business will start to take twice as long as the traffic increases. For some reason it is legal to ride quad bikes on the main roads here, not only are they slow, unstable and not designed for the roads, but the people who hire them often don’t have experience driving one and think it’s safe to drive after having a skin full of alcohol. And here’s the classic…People drive them semi naked and without helmets. Sadly there are times when only eight or nine people out of the original group of ten are boarding the flight home! Many of these youngsters wouldn’t dream of riding a motorbike in the UK, let alone without clothes and a helmet. It is quite unbelievable.
People – mainly the youngsters, but not always – think it’s acceptable to go shopping in supermarkets barely wearing any clothes. Bikinis and speedos are just not shopping attire, but what do I know?
People who live here are excited for the start of the tourist season, it brings much needed work to a place where winter work is scarce. But due to the long working hours and the long summer spirits are soon crushed. For many it doesn’t take long for the sparkle in the eyes and the easy smiles to be replaced by a furrowed forehead and a couldn’t care less manner.
My husband runs a small beach bar at a nearby hotel, he loves his work and is lucky enough to have nice clientele, many of whom he has got to know over the few years he has worked there. He looks forward to the arrival of the regulars, as not only does he enjoy their company, but just the simple fact that they return year after year and sometimes twice a year indicates to him that he does a good job.
As much as he enjoys his job though, come mid July he too will start to show signs of weariness and it can be hard on all of us.
In the last two weeks of August there are two big holidays, one is a national holiday and the other is a local holiday celebrating the Saint of the island, St. Dionisis. This is probably when the island is at it busiest, as Greeks leave the mainland to get away from the heat and want to enjoy their summer holidays on the island.
Come the end of August, we will all start to see light at the end of the tunnel. The nights will start to get a tad cooler, so we can get a better nights sleep – we don’t do air conditioning! – and workers will be able to catch a breath at work again.
The main bulk of tourist have left by the end of September, the children are back at school after a three month school break – it’s crazy, but true! – and Neal knows that the hotel will close by mid October, which he so looks forward to. He will usually have a week or twos break before starting winter work, which is a lot less demanding and not everyday.
Neal’s birthday is November 1st, which signifies to us the end of the long, hot tourist season, as that is roughly the date when the last international flight leaves, taking with it the last of the tourists, and the airport all but closes down for the next six months. During the winter months the airport opens for one flight to Athens a day, we have to travel to the mainland for international flights.
The tourist resorts become ghost towns, the population drops to around 17,00 and I crawl out from under the bed, where I will have been hiding since July!
The tourist trade is important to the island, it brings much needed money, so I am not complaining. Living here gives us the best of both worlds, we have a busy, crazy six months of summer and a quiet, relaxing and some would say boring winter – I say; quiet?… Yes… Boring?…No!
Well that’s what May 1st or May Day signifies for us. What does it mean to you?
Copyright © 2014 Debbie Roberts
© 2014 – 2015, Debbie. All rights reserved.