May 1 has been celebrated in various places around the world for thousands of years. While it is not a major holiday in the United States, many a school has appointed a May Queen and has had a traditional May Pole. Old yearbooks and school records often include pictures of the festivities. This celebration gradually petered out after WWII.
May 1 has always had elements of fertility ritual and the rebirth of spring as a central theme. Like many holidays May Day has pagan connections. Perhaps the most well known ritual comes from the Druids and is the festival of Beltane. A new village fire was set, the animals were purified and couples did what couples do in a most celebratory way.
Other sources accredit May Day to ancient rituals in India and Egypt. It stands to reason that all early civilizations celebrated the rites of Spring, crops, and fertility in general.
The Romans celebrated Floralia, a 5 day holiday that was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of flowers. When they marched in to the British Isles, their holiday became the prevailing festival so over time, Beltane and Floralia merged to become one holiday of ritual fire, flowers, maypoles, etc.
Today little attention is paid to May Day. During the 19th and 20th centuries schools participated in May Day activities with great gusto. Queens were selected and girls (the May Court) promenaded around the Maypole holding on to colorful streamers. It seems that when the women’s movement took hold, May Day celebrations stopped existing.
Does anyone have anything planned for this spring ritual? This May Day looks sort of gray and overcast from where I sit. Does anyone remember any official celebrations from the past?