01 May 2009

May Day

While May Day is not a particularly important holiday in the US, it traces its roots as far back as ancient Rome as a festival for Flora, the goddess of flowers. And for the Druids, 1 May was the second most important holiday of the year. It was the day that divided the year in half and celebrated the festival of Beltane.

When the Romans took over the British Isles, they brought the customs of Flora's festival with them and those became combined with the Beltane celebration. Some of the combined customs are what have been handed down to us today. With the advent of the Puritans, the ancient fertility rites were taken out of the holiday and it turned into a festival for children.

The main tradition of the holiday is the Maypole. Children dance around the pole with ribbons and streamers, often creating elaborate patterns. Little girls wear circlets of flowers in their hair and are May Queens. At my children's school, the kindergarteners always have a Maypole celebration. This year's will be delayed as the schools are closed to help prevent the spread of swine flu. (Not to mention that we are also having rain and severe thunderstorms.)

In some areas children still hang May Baskets (small baskets filled with sweets and flowers) on the doors of neighbours. I can remember doing that at my grandmother's house when I was small. And when Abbey was little, we did May Baskets with our neighbours on our cul de sac. If you'd like to make your own May Baskets, here is a scan from Activities for Children, a 1940s kids' publication. You can enlarge as desired for the size basket you would like to make.

Emily, at Flying Time Designs, has this pattern posted, too, along with some other May Day Basket ideas. Check them out!

So where ever you are and however you celebrate, I hope you will have a

I will be off getting labwork, seeing the doc and having transfusions.
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