When I thought about today being May 1st or May Day, I planned to write a quick blog on the history of May Day. Now, how hard is that? A tad of facts, the May Day Pole, and some lovely pictures.
Well, I’ll tell you all one thing, the history about the day halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice is breathtaking. I found so much information on its history that it was difficult to pare it down. So, here goes.
May Day originated as a pagan festive holy day celebrating the first spring planting. The ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane, which translates to the day of fire. Why the day of fire? Bel was the Celtic god of the sun.
Here are a few tidbits I found interesting:
- May was once considered a bad luck month to get married. There’s on old saying, “Marry in May and you’ll rue the day”.
- May in the Northern Hemisphere is similar to November in the Southern Hemisphere. So, “It is the third and last month of the season of spring”, centuries ago.
- May’s birthstone is the emerald which symbolizes success and love.
- In Old English, May is called the “month of three milkings” referring to a time when the cows could be milked three times a day.
- The Indianapolis 500 car race and the Kentucky Derby are held in May.
- The United Kingdom celebrates May as the National Smile Month.
- The last week of May is Library and information week.
- Dances, singing and cakes are typical of the celebration.
To my surprise, when you go back into history May 1st was the date chosen for the International Workers’ Day, not to be confused with Labor Day.
Some of the modern day celebrations include dancing around the Maypole, a lot of pageantry, including “floral wish”.
May Day is strongly associated with flowers, partly because of the availability. Since the ancient days in England there was a custom of “bringing in the May”. This was why people would go to the woods and pick flowers to bring into the houses to decorate. They would also make garlands, a custom that has survived still today. The garlands were also used by the children going door to door begging. That could be done only in May; otherwise, begging would be offensive.
On the first day of May, English villagers woke up at daybreak to roam the countryside gathering blossoming flower and branches to create the towering maypole set up on the village green. This pole usually made of the trunk of a tall birch, was decorated with bright field flowers. The villagers then danced and sang around the maypole, accompanied by a piper.
I couldn’t resist adding this custom. Facewashing in May Dew: Washing the face with May dew was believed to restore beauty. This is why in the Ozark Mountains, a cradle of American folklore, girls used to nurture a belief that having their faces washed with the early dawn dew on May Day would help them marry the man of their choice.
Now, May Day and a MAYDAY are two separate things, as most of us know. MAYDAY was officially recognized in 1948, and is the official call of urgent needs. MAYDAY is called three times, so there’s no mistaking the signal of a life-threatening emergency. It should be noted that a false MAYDAY call comes with a hefty fine and up to six years in prison, since it’s considered a criminal act in many countries.
Are you as surprised as I was researching the history behind May Day and MAYDAY?
I’m so thrilled that my second book in the Kasota Spring Romance series, Out of a Texas Night will be out on my next blog day. It’s available for preorder at Amazon.
Tonight I’m selecting one reader who leaves a comment to receive a copy of their choice of any of my eBooks and I promise my May blog, at the end of the month, which is also my release date, will be filled with fun and prizes.