When I was a little girl, Mama enthusiastically celebrated May Day. She would spend hours filling May Baskets with treats and delivering them to the neighbors. She always wanted to have a party for me where my little friends and I could dance around a May Pole, which she would decorate with flowers and colorful ribbons.
And I hated it. Why? Because NOBODY else we knew celebrated May Day in any way. The neighbors would smile uncomfortably when we brought them their May Baskets, confused about what it was all about and if they were expected to reciprocate. In fact, you're really supposed to leave the May Basket secretly on someone's doorstep and run away, but since nobody else did it, she always had to knock and explain what it was. It just wasn't a "thing" in Texas. I wanted to be enthusiastic about Mama's holiday, but it was just a little...embarrassing.
Why was Mama so into it? I don't know. She wasn't from Texas, she grew up in South Dakota, then lived in Chicago. I always assumed that the May Day thing was a tradition from those places, the distant North. Or maybe it was something she got from her Norwegian relatives - some Scandinavian thing.
I've poked around on the internet, and can't find any evidence for this - nothing special in either Norway or South Dakota. Maybe it was just that when it's that stinking cold for such a long, hard winter, when everything finally thaws out, you want to have a little outdoors fun.
It's still popular in Great Britain - lots of May Poles and Morris dancing. The Irish have Beltane, and the Germans and Finns have Walpurgis Night. And it's all wonderfully wild and pagan. Lots of dancing and bonfires where effigies of Old Man Winter are burned. In ancient Rome, tributes were made to Flora, the goddess of flowers.
Sadly, as I got older, Mama stopped the May Day thing. I don't remember any May Baskets by the time I was in sixth grade or so. I don't know if she just kind of forgot about it, or if she gave up on trying to get me interested. It must be lonely being the only person celebrating a holiday.
Interestingly, Jude's school celebrates May Day. Mama would LOVE it. As it has always done throughout history, the Catholic church has hijacked the pagan holiday, and May Day is now a celebration for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every year they have a May Crowning, when they place a crown of flowers on the head of their statue of Mary. All the children bring bouquets of fresh flowers picked from their yards and gardens and they gather around Mary and sing things like "Hail Holy Queen" and "Immaculate Mary". The second graders all wear their first communion outfits. It's really terribly sweet.
Do you celebrate May Day in your part of the world? Did you when you were a kid?
Maybe I should try to bring back May Day. It all seems like a lot of fun to me, and it would sure have made Mama happy. I'm guessing my neighbors would enjoy a nice May Basket. Who wants to build a May Pole? Does anybody know how to Morris dance?
Please visit our other May Day spinners! And come back on Monday when Ginny Marie and I share the spin topic for next week.
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