What is May Day?

May 1st  is not only the first day of the new month, but it’s also a holiday of sorts. May Day is celebrated as a way to welcome summer and as a day to campaign for better labor rights.

Origins in Pagan Times

May Day started as a pre-Christian holiday celebrated throughout Europe, especially among the Gaelic people, who called it Beltaine. It was a holiday that marked the halfway point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. Beltaine was also about fertility — people hoped that by observing the holiday, they could ensure that their livestock and crops were fruitful over the coming summer. Bonfires were the centerpiece of Beltaine celebrations, with people dancing around them and feasting long into the night.

Toss The Lentils?

In Rome, the holiday was slightly different. May Day was called Floralia, after Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. Floralia was similar to Beltaine in that it was a celebration of fertility. Popular Floralia traditions included releasing hares and goats — two animals thought to be most fertile — into the streets. People would also throw beans or lentils into the gathered crowds because both were considered to be symbols of fertility.

May Day Celebrations from the Middle Ages to Today

By the Middle Ages, May Day was a secular event, and the most popular way to celebrate it was to dance around the maypole, which is a tradition that is still practiced in parts of Europe and the United States today.

The maypole dance features a large pole, traditionally cut from a birch tree, with dozens of ribbons fastened to the top. Each dancer takes a ribbon and moves around the pole in a pattern with the rest of the dancers. The goal is to cover the pole in pretty woven designs. This was a particularly popular event in Great Britain, to the point that nearly every village cut their own maypole for May Day. Some villages would even compete with each other to see who had the tallest maypole.

Other traditions include crowns of flowers and the crowing of the May Queen.

Information found at https://www.farmersalmanac.com/what-is-may-day-27270