May Day

Maypole-May-1st-2017-BlogToday is May Day, the bank holiday that celebrates the beginning of May. As with so many of our modern holidays, May Day has its roots in the religion of our ancestors. For the Celts, Beltane (May 1st) marked the beginning of summer and was celebrated with bonfires and revelry. Here are some facts you may or may not know about May Day, the 1st day of May:

  • May 1st is the mid-point of the ancient Roman festival of Floralia. This was held in celebration of the goddess of flowers, Flora
  • When the Romans arrived in Britain Floralia became merged with Beltane and May Day was the result
  • The month of May is named after Maia, the Greek goddess of growth. It’s easy to see why with plants and flowers shooting up all around us
  • According to superstition, if you wash your face with May Day’s dew it will guarantee you get no spots for a whole year
  • Maypole-Dancing-May-1st-2017May is said to be an unlucky month. Things you traditionally shouldn’t do in May include buying a broom, getting married, washing blankets or having a baby
  • The Maypole was the centrepiece of May Day celebrations for centuries. This was a symbol of fertility and villagers would dance around it to invoke a good year for crops
  • Maypoles and May Day were banned in the 1600s by the puritan government who claimed they were ‘a heathenish vanity’
  • When Charles II reclaimed the throne in 1660, May Day celebrations started once again
  • In the 1800s May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day to celebrate labour movements, trade unions and socialism
  • In 1923 Mayday was chosen as the international distress signal. It represents the French words ‘m’aider’ which mean ‘help me’
  • In answer to May 1st being International Workers’ Day, in 1966 the World Tramps Congress chose May 2nd as the date for the International Day of Idleness
  • May Day did not become a bank holiday until 1978

So there you have it – the reasons we have all enjoyed a longer than usual weekend. I hope you enjoyed the break, and this brief history of May Day, from its ancient origins to its modern form.

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