May is Jewish American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, AAPI Heritage Month, Mothers’ Day, Memorial Day, and a whole lot of other things besides. Before we get all tangled up in all of those worthy remembrances, we should take a look at May Day.
May Day is a May 1st celebration that dates back millennia. Over the centuries, many traditions have changed, but one thing that has not changed is the enthusiasm with which people in the Northern Hemisphere welcome spring.
There are many different cultural and traditional events and festivities that are observed, but they are mainly found in the northern part of the world. One popular tradition of May Day involves the maypole. While the cultural origins of the maypole remain a bit of a mystery, the annual traditions surrounding it can be traced back to medieval times, and some are still celebrated today. Singing and dancing around a pole decorated with flowers and ribbons brings to mind a lot of joy and spring delight! Unfortunately, the tradition of the maypole never really took root in America, where May Day celebrations were discouraged by the Puritans. However, other forms of celebrations did find their way into the change of the seasons.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, May Basket Day was celebrated across the United States, where baskets were created with flowers, candies, and other treats and were then hung on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones on May 1st. In the Catholic church, May is usually devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the crowning of a statue of the “Queen of May” with a floral wreath used to be a common practice.
Later, what started out as a celebration of spring and fertility took on a whole new meaning in the 19th century. May Day, as an International Workers’ Day, grew out of the 19th-century labor movement that focused on worker’s rights and an eight-hour workday in the United States.
Whether you follow any of these spring traditions or customs, I think we can all agree the return of warmer weather, flowers, and a slight easing of our days is always welcome. Why not mark the day by planting something that will be both useful and beautiful? I am hopeful that my new raspberry bushes come in so I can do just that.
Enjoy, and keep well!