Saturday, 1 May 2010

MAY DAY ~ 1st May

Today is May Day, an old British holiday steeped in tradition. Long before the 1st May was linked with workers and the trade unions, May Day was almost as popular as Christmas. It was, and still is in some regions of England, a day for fun, flowers, frivolity and food! Although summer does not officially begin until June, May Day marks its beginning. May Day celebrations have their origins in the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. A few customs that are associated with this spring holiday are:

1. Washing in early morning dew ~ for the ladies! To wash one's face in May morn' dew to was to secure beauty for the next year.

2. May Day Garlands ~ Young girls would make May Garlands. They covered two hoops, one at right angles inside the other, with leaves and flowers, and sometimes they put a doll inside to represent the goddess of spring. In some parts of Britain, May the 1st is still called Garland Day.

"The first of May is Garland Day
So please remember the garland.
We don't come here but once a year,
So please remember the garland."

3. May Day Tricks ~ In the North of England, the first of May was a late 'April Fool's day' when all sorts of tricks and pranks would take place and 'May Gosling' was shouted to those who had fallen foul of the pranks. Their response would be: 'May Goslings past and gone. You're the fool for making me one!'

4. Decorating Houses and the Parish Church ~ May Day began early in the morning when the villagers would go out before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their homes, villages and the local church, in the belief that the spring garden spirits would bring good fortune.

5. May Queen ~ the highlight of May Day was the crowning of the May Queen, to represent the goddess Flora. By tradition she took no part in the games or dancing, but sat like a queen in a flower decked chair to watch her 'subjects'. To be chosen as the May Queen was a great honour.

Maypole dancing and Morris dancing are also popular on May Day, and Maypoles could be seen all over Britain in every small hamlet, village or town.

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