Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

May the First be with you……

May 1st. May Day. There is something quintessentially English about this festival, recognised as a holiday in the U.K. It conjures images of May Queens, resplendent in their headresses of flowers and herbs, of children skipping gaily around the maypole, of ruddy-cheeked morris dancers, bells-a-jingling on the village green.

Although Summer really kicks off in June, the Mayday celebrations are really the opening act. The celebrations have their origins in the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. It was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd.

Maypole Dancing has a long and cherished history, though sadly is not as widespread as in past decades. On May day, young trees would be cut down and stuck in the ground, usually on the village green, to mark the arrival of summer. People danced around them in celebration of the end of winter and the start of the fine weather that would allow planting to begin.

Maypoles were once common all over England and were usually saved from one year to the next. Schools would have their children practice skipping round the pole for weeks before the final show on the village greens. The end results would be either a beautiful plaited pattern of ribbons round the pole or a generous serving of spaghetti, depending on the level of rehearsal.

The day usually culminates in the crowning of the May Queen, the human equivalent of the goddess Flora, who has traditionally abstained from any of the events of the day, instead, sitting on her throne, (in reality a flower be-decked chair) observing her “subjects”.

Another magical custom on May 1st, would be for all the young girls to wash their faces in the fresh morning dew, in the belief that it would keep them beautiful in the coming year.

I was hoping to post some images,but WordPress is playing up, grrrr…..Perhaps I’ll make a further post when the mayday gremlins have had their fun!

Kev Moore


May 1, 2008 - Posted by | Art

1 Comment »

  1. We have May Day in America, too, Kevin. I don’t know if anyone does it anymore, but when I was a child, I went to a private school that taught us to do a Maypole.

    In America, however, May 1 is NOT Labor Day. Labor Day is the first Monday in September. Was I ever surprised about other countries celebrating it in May!

    I looked up the reason for this last year and found that labor marches were traditionally held on May Day, even in America. But when labor won the holiday in America, they picked the first Monday in September because there was no holiday all the way from the Fourth of July (our Independence Day) and Thanksgiving (late November). The September date was picked because it was halfway between the two.

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | May 4, 2008

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