May Day Traditions
May 2, 2014
The May Day bank holiday signifies the start of the summer and May Day celebrations were once the highlight of the year in every town and village throughout Britain. Today many of these traditions have unfortunately disappeared. If you want to help bring back some of the original May Day traditions this year, here are some celebrations you may want to get involved with.
Maypoles were originally placed in villages where people danced around them in celebration of the end of winter and the start of the fine weather that would allow planting to begin. A popular children’s activity, each child holds one of the ribbons and circles the maypole with a hopping, skipping step. Some of the children dance in one direction while others dance the opposite way around the pole, changing their direction at carefully chosen moments. As they dance, the children pass each other until the ribbons are plaited together and wrapped tightly around the maypole. When the circle is as small as it can be, the dance is reversed and the ribbons unwind until the dancers come back to their starting places.
Crowning of a May Queen
The crowning of a May Queen is one of the few May Day customs to have allegedly remained unbroken in several hundred years. Hayfield in Derbyshire claims their annual May Queen festival as “the longest standing continuous procession of its kind in the country”. The May Queen is typically a girl of school age, dressed in white, to symbolise purity who is crowned with a garland of flowers.
A form of folk dancing seen throughout the month of May is Morris Dancing. Often accompanied by an accordion player, Morris dancers wear different clothes depending on the part of the country in which they dance. There are usually six to eight dancers arranged in two lines or in a circle facing each other. The dancers may carry white handkerchiefs that they shake while they dance.
A traditional drink to consume on May eve is May Punch. Make this punch using fresh strawberries, white wine, soda water or lemonade and woodruff. Traditionally the wine is poured over the herb. It is not added to the punch bowl.