May Day Traditions

by Charlotte.Barnes on May 1, 2012

Maypole decorationsMay Day is traditionally seen as a celebration of springtime and the start of the bountiful harvests that will come during the year. Many countries across the world have their own May Day celebrations and its origins reach as far back as Roman times, when the goddess Flora was honoured with a spring festival.

It was, and still is to a degree, a celebration of nature and the role it plays in our daily lives. By this point in the year, most of the seeds for the upcoming year would be planted and it was a day for farm labourers to have a well-earned rest before the busy summer months. In pagan cultures, May Day is considered the first day of summer and it is closely associated with the Gaelic festival of Beltane. In the UK, May Day is typically associated with May Poles, Morris Dancing and May Queens.


White May blossomsFlowers play an important part of most May Day celebrations as certain flowers only begin to bloom in spring and so herald the changing seasons. May blossoms, lily of the valley and sweet peas are popular choices for May Day decorations due to their bright colours and rich fragrances.

Queen of the May

A May Queen must be crowned in order to start the festivities of May Day and it is her job to walk or ride at the head of any procession. Typically she wears white to symbolise purity and innocence and, along with other youngsters from the area, is one of the first to dance around the Maypole.


Maypole dancing{Rick Smith}

Depending on where you live in the world can depend on what the Maypole is said to signify. Some believe it represents the axis of the world and the seasons that move around it, while others think they symbolize trees and dancing around it is believed to honour nature and the harvest it brings.


Although May Day does not always fall on the same day as the Bank Holiday, in the UK it is usually celebrated with carnivals, parades and fairs when everyone is off school and work. Floats are often decorated with flowers and plants to signify the new growth of spring. Roads and businesses are closed and many schools and local organisations take part in constructing their own floats ready for the celebrations.

Morris dancing

Morris Dancing at May DayThis well-known May Day tradition dates back to the 15th century and is a form of English folk dancing. Dancers normally wear bells on their legs or shoes and carry sticks decorated with more bells and ribbons. Although the numbers of Morris Dancing groups has declined over the years, recently it has started making a comeback at traditional May Day celebrations.

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Charlotte Barnes

Post category: Flowers, Knowledge, Occasions, Other Flowers, Other Occasions  

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