maypole dancing may day
Maypole Dancing For May Day In Rochester - Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Got your maypole set up? How about your May Day treat-filled baskets?

by Sharon Asakawa

May 1 was May Day and not just another ordinary day. For centuries, many countries have celebrated May Day as a way of saying adieu to the long, frigid winter months and welcoming the warmer season by harvesting flowers, singing, dancing and all sorts of frivolity.

Many of the earlier celebrations in Ireland, Scotland and Rome were to insure maximum crop yields as well as to encourage livestock to produce more offspring. It wasn’t until much later that this became an occasion for merriment and joyful celebration that included the crowning of a May queen as well as filling baskets with candy and flowers and secretly leaving them on friends and family’s door handles or porches. Popular flowers include those from a May tree or common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna.

The best-known May Day activity that is still practiced today is the maypole dance where people dance around a pole (in years past the pole was cut from a birch tree), holding one end of a ribbon in hand while the other end of the ribbon was attached to the top of the pole. As they danced in a pattern around the pole, the ribbons were woven into colorful designs. Everday is the day to celebrate in May! Spring is here at long last.