WHAT IS MAY DAY?
May Day is now a public holiday on the first day of May every year.
In some parts of the United States, May baskets are filled with flowers or treats and left on someone’s doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away.
While Britons usually celebrate the date with ribbons, dancing and often crowning a May Queen, how many of us actually know what the date is really about? The history of the date goes back hundreds of years to the Pagan times when people would hold festivals to celebrate Spring and fertility. Here’s everything you need to know.
May Day is all about marking the start of Summer even if it is a little chilly out. That’s because in pagan tradition, February 1 was the first day of spring and May 1 was the first day of summer. These season markers were eventually lost as Christianity spread across Europe, with summer now officially starting on June 1. But the May Day traditions stuck around, in part because they coincided with several other popular festivals. In Ireland and Scotland, Gaelic May Day or Beltane was celebrated with a feast, rituals and a bonfire on April 30 as the midpoint between the spring and summer solstices to mark the start of ‘the season of warmth and light’ – summer. A separate tradition held by the Romans on April 27 celebrated the goddess of flowers – Flora – and over in Germany, Finland and Sweden, Walpurgis Night was marked on 1 May. This included dancing, a big feast, kissing young women and was known as a night when witches awaited the arrival of spring.