May Day represents a plethora of various holidays celebrated all over the world. It was believed to have begun in ancient times as a Gaelic, pagan holiday, called Beltane. May 1st was thought of as the mid year mark, or the first day of summer, November 1st being the first day of the year. During Beltane, strange rituals were practiced, such as pregnant women running through fire to ensure an easy birth.
In ancient Rome, May Day was celebrated as a time of spring fertility. A time when they honored Flora, the goddess of spring.
Pilgrims later brought May Day to America, but Puritans quickly condemned it as being immoral, which is why it is not as widely celebrated in America as it is in other places around the world.
In the late 1900's, May Day was taken up in America as a Labor Day of sorts, celebrating worker's rights. It stemmed from protests against the 12 to 14 hour work day. Europe adopted the sentiments of this holiday and it remains strong there today.
In Hawaii, May Day is celebrated as Lei Day. Many festivities are held including putting lei's around each others necks accompanied by a traditional kiss on the cheek.
The traditions and stories surrounding May Day vary from place to place, in general though, May Day is a celebration of the arrival of spring.
May Pole - A May Pole is a tall wooden pole erected to celebrate May Day. It is decorated with long colorful ribbons, flowers, and greenery. It originated with the Beltane observances. People hold on to the ribbons and do a ring dance around the pole. You can find May Pole dance instructions here.
May Baskets - Common to most May Day celebrations is the predominant use of flowers. One popular tradition, which your grandparents may remember from their childhood, is the May Basket. People hang a basket filled with spring flowers or small gifts and treats on a neighbor's doorknob. The idea is to get away without being caught or the neighbor can give you a kiss. (So, if you think your neighbor is a hotsy totsy, you may want to run away very slowly) :0)
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