May Day

This is a little side bar or diversion from my usual posts. May 1 was yesterday and it’s a kind of quasi holiday so I felt it should have some recognition.

Since I was at work all day I wasn’t out dancing around the Maypole in the sunshine 🙂

In fact May Day isn’t just about flowers in your hair and Maypole dances. I was surprised to learn that in many places it’s labor day or  the “official” name International Workers’ Day.

International Workers’ Day began in 1856 in Australia as a “workers holiday’ commemorating the fight for an 8 hour workday. The original day was April 22 but as the idea spread around the world it was moved to May 1.

As interesting as that bit of trivia is I was thinking more about the tradition of the Maypole and the more ancient celebrations. Traditional May Day celebrations are actually tied to the Celtic Festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgs Night. May Day marks the end of the unfarmable winter half of the year in the northern hemisphere. It’s a festival of rebirth and hope as the cold disappears and green grass and trees return. Baby animals are born and the cycle of life is reaffirmed.

Even earlier Mayday was associated with Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers.

The Maypole is a tall wooden pole that is raised  as part of various folk festivals. Even with the tradition clearly documented no one seems to agree on the significance of the pole. Makes me think of the story of the lady who was cooking a ham and always cut the ends off. One day her daughter asked her “Mom, why do you cut the ends of the ham?”. Her mother replied, ” because that’s the way grandma always did it.” So when the little girl saw her grandmother she asked her and Grandma said the same thing. Finally the great-grandmother spoke up. She said “We always cut the ends off because we didn’t have a pan big enough to hold the ham.”…but a tradition was born and no one remembered where it came from.  Seems like that’s what goes on here with the Maypole.

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In any case, I like the idea of spring and flowers and ribbons on a pole and everyone skipping and dancing around it. It’s a happy vision 🙂 So no matter where the idea or tradition came from, I hope it continues to stay around a long time!

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