26 April, 2011  |   3 Comments

May Days from the past, yo

So May Day is my fascination this week. We’re putting May Day baskets on 5 neighbor’s doors on Sunday. Before we make our lists, I wanted to check out some history first.

I like May Day because it seems like such a female holiday. Traditionally, May Day celebrations include fertility and beauty.

I’d said on Twitter that the beginning of May was a big feast time in Rome. Floralia was for worshiping Flora, the goddess of flowers. Then Maypoles got involved.  Bringing in the Maypole from the woods was big cause for celebration. They’re not the only part of May day that I love, I love the history of May Dew, the beauty treatment.

But back to Maypoles.
As it goes with men, Maypoles were of all sizes.  
Also as with men, villages competed for the biggest one.

The biggest Maypole recorded, at 134 feet, was brought in two pieces from Scotland to London, and, encouraged by drums, hoisted into position by twelve seamen (heh). The biggest Maypole got even cooler when Sir Isaac Newton bought it to support his 124 foot telescope.

Ah, men.

Young girls dancing around the May pole is an English tradition. Evolving over time, the Maypole dance became a whole lot more involved. More recently, dancers weave in and around one another making patterns with ribbons attached to the top of the pole

But no, Helen Jane, tell me about May dew.
Water for purifying was always important in ancient New Year rituals — Europeans believed that dew taken from the hawthorn tree before dawn on May Day was a beauty tonic. They say Catherine of Aragon went into the woods with 25 ladies-in-waiting, to wash her face in May Day dew.

Will I see you out in the morning on Sunday?
Washing your face in dew?
How ’bout Maypoling?

3 thoughts on “May Days from the past, yo

  1. 1
    Erin says:

    I’m totally familiar with May Day AND the May Pole dance, because we did it at my elementary school every year! Certain, very well-behaved, 5th graders were picked to braid the ribbons around a pole on the playground while the whole school watched. I was soooo excited to get to do it my year, because the girls all got to wear long, checked gingham skirts, and I loved clothes like that. Partners were assigned by height, and I was paired with a boy named Jason. It was one of the highlights of my elementary school experience. 🙂

    Oh, and by the way – Jason is now one of my best friends as an adult, and has absolutely no recollection of us being partners, or even of doing the May Pole dance. I tease him about it at every opportunity.

  2. 2
    Erin says:

    Did you ever read Tess of the D’Urbervilles? The opening May Day scene is dreamy. (I have it if you want to borrow, such a good one.)

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