~Information from The World Book Encyclopedia~
May Day (May 1) is celebrated as a spring festival in
many countries. It marks the revival of life in early
spring after winter. May Day celebrations may go back to
the spring festivals of ancient Egypt and India.
The English and other peoples whom the Romans conquered
developed their May Day festivals from the Roman festival
called Floralia. In the April festival of Floralia, the
Romans gathered flowers to honor the goddess of
springtime, Flora. Eventually, Floralia was combined with
a Celtic celebration called Beltane, which was held on
May 1. The Celts believed that on Beltane, the fairies
were especially active.
In medieval times, May Day became the favorite holiday of
many English villages. People gathered flowers to
decorate their homes and churches. They sang spring
carols and received gifts in return. They chose a king
and queen of May. Villagers danced around a Maypole,
holding the ends of ribbons that streamed from its top.
They wove the ribbons around the pole until it was
covered with bright colors. Dew collected on May Day
morning was said to restore youth.
Other European countries had their own May Day customs.
In some, the day became a time for courting. In Italy,
for example, boys serenaded their sweethearts. In
Switzerland, a May pine tree was placed under a girl's
window. In France, May Day had religious importance. The
French considered the month of May sacred to the Virgin
Mary. They enshrined young girls as May queens in their
churches. The May queens led processions in honor of the
The Puritans disapproved of May Day, and the day has
never been celebrated with the same enthusiasm in the
United States as in Britain. But in many American towns
and cities, children celebrate the day with dancing and
singing. They often gather flowers in handmade paper
baskets and hang them on the doorknobs of the homes of
friends and neighbors on May Day morning. At May Day
parties, children select May queens, dance around the
Maypole, and sing May Day songs. May is also celebrated
in the Roman Catholic Church by electing May queens who
wear flowers and lead parades called May processions.
Such customs are probably pre-Christian in origin.
In 1889, a congress of world Socialist parties held in
Paris voted to support the United States labor movement's
demands for an eight-hour day. It chose May 1, 1890, as a
day of demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day.
Afterward, May 1 became a holiday called Labor Day in
many nations. It resembles the September holiday in the
United States. Government and labor organizations sponsor
parades, speeches, and other celebrations to honor
working people. The holiday has had special importance in
socialist and Communist countries.
Walpurgis Night, pronounced vahl
PUR gihs, is the eve of May Day, when German people
celebrate the feast of St. Walpurgis. According to
legend, witches gather on this night and celebrate their
Sabbath on mist-covered Brocken, the highest peak in the
~Information from Compton's
English morris dance too probably developed from the
spring fertility rites of pagan times. It may have been a
modification of the sword dance. The performers wore
bells on their legs and carried sticks or knotted
around the Maypole are also believed to have had a pagan
source. They are thought to be remnants of a
tree-worshiping ceremony which was part of spring
fertility rites. In the ancient ritual the dancers
circled about a living tree garlanded with spring flowers
to symbolize fertility. During the ceremony each dancer
moved forward to touch the tree and so identify himself
with plant life."
~Information from The World Book Encyclopedia~
"More information on May customs. Even in ancient
times, May 1 was a day for outdoor festivals. In Rome,
May 1 fell at a time that was sacred to Flora, the
goddess of flowers. The Romans celebrated the day with
flower-decked parades. The English also observed many
beautiful May Day customs. Maypoles were erected in
village parks. On the morning of May 1, the village
youths went to the woods and gathered
"mayflowers," or hawthorn blossoms, to decorate
the Maypole. The girls wore their prettiest dresses, each
hoping that she would be elected May queen. The queen
danced around the Maypole with her
~Information from the Encyclopedia Britannica~
"May Day in medieval and modern Europe, day (May 1)
for traditional springtime celebrations, probably
originating in pre-Christian agricultural rituals. Though
local usage varied widely, these celebrations commonly
included the carrying in procession of trees, green
branches, or garlands; the appointment of a May king and
May queen; and the setting up of a May tree or Maypole.
Originally such rites were intended to ensure fertility
to the crops, and by extension to cattle and human
beings, but in most cases this significance was gradually
lost, and the practices survived merely as popular
festivities. A widespread superstition held that washing
the face in the May Day morning dew would beautify the
Day was designated as an international labour day by the
International Socialist congress of 1889. It was a major
holiday in the Soviet Union and other Communist
countries, and elsewhere it was the occasion for
important political demonstrations."
"Choose ye this day
whom you will serve. As for me
and my house we will serve the Lord."
May Day from There's No
Place Like Home for the Holidays
Annie's Card Shop has May
Day Cards if you decide to send them!
It's Traditional --
May Day - a page from the UK
The Maypole Dance
Post Card Scenes - very old cards
Holiday Fun May Days Holidays
"And do not be
conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and
acceptable and perfect will of God."
Other Related Pages by Annie:
Annie's Flower Page
a May Day Card to a Friend!!
May Day is Celebrated on May 1st Each Year!!