Halcyon Days - The Story Behind the Name

The Name Halcyon Days

Origin and Legend

The Halcyon is a mythical bird of Greek legend which is now known as the Kingfisher bird famous for its colourful plumage and long beak.

It was believed by the ancients that the Halcyon bird made a floating nest in the Aegean Sea. They thought that during her nesting period, she had the ability to calm the waves. When the Halcyon was nesting around the winter solstice, usually the 21st or 22nd of December, fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected. The Halcyon days are generally thought to begin on the 14th or 15th December.


The idea that the bird had the power to calm the sea began with a myth recorded by Ovid. Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone, married to Ceyx, the King of Thessaly. The story goes that Ceyx was tragically drowned at sea, causing her to throw herself into the waves in an outburst of grief, desperate to join her husband in death. However, Alcyone did not drown. Instead, she was transformed into a beautiful bird and carried peacefully to her husband by the wind.

Halcyon Days - The Story Behind the Name



Pamela Harper, Chairman & CEO of Halcyon Days

The Myth Continues

In the 14th century the myth entered the English-speaking world and by the 16th century the phrase ‘halcyon days’ had taken on a new meaning. It lost its association with the nesting bird and began to figuratively mean ‘calm days’. Shakespeare used this phrase in 1592 in his play Henry VI and in 1605 in his play King Lear.

Our current use of 'halcyon days' tends to be nostalgic and recalling of the seemingly endless sunny days of youth - despite the fact that the original halcyon days were in the depths of winter.

Halcyon Days - The Story Behind the Name

Halcyon Days - The Story Behind the Name