May Day is next Tuesday. Historically, it was a pagan holiday to celebrate the first plantings of spring and, of course, fertility until the Catholic Church nixed the traditions. Peasants though persevered for awhile. Originally, this was a grand day for feasting and games. A May Queen was crowned and wearing masks and dancing around a May Pole was part of the fun.
Eventually, the day became a working class holiday in 1889. This started as a movement in Paris to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs. The movement grew until May Day became an international workers holiday. How do I know all this? I read “The Origins and Traditions of May Day” by Eugene W. Plawiuk. I seem to remember some of these facts from somewhere before.
When my mom was a child, May Day was celebrated in her hometown in Appalachian Kentucky. Girls wore white dresses and danced around the May Pole and someone was crowned queen. In the part of the U.S. where she grew up there is a large Scotch/Irish population which might explain the tradition. These days, I don’t think May Day is a big deal there, but May Day events do give people a reason to get out and dance elsewhere. I love the mood of this photo by Rodnic66 that I found on Flickr. I did find some photos of May Poles, but these kids made me smile.
If you are in Mystic, Connecticut on May 5, you can take in the annual May Day Parade. The Mystic Garland Dancers will dance around the May Pole as part of the event.