Here’s a branch of snowy May,
A branch the fairies gave me.
Who would like to dance today,
With a branch the fairies gave me?
Dance away, dance away,
Holding high the branch of May.
–Traditional May Day Song
May Day is such a beautiful day full of cheer! There are many beautiful cultural and folk traditions around this special day. One often thinks of the image of dancers around a Maypole. In the book “All Year Round”, the authors remark that originally the Maypole was a tree, sometimes up to sixty feet high, cut and stripped of all its branches except the top (which then symbolized new life). It was decorated and set up in an open space. Ribbons were often added, and then the dancers around the pole move in such a way as to plait the ribbons in patterns.
May Day brings promise: to the farmer, the promise of kind weather; to the girl who washes her face in the May Day dew, the promise of a fine complexion; to the young people weaving the pattern of creation around the Maypole, the eternal promise of the future. – From page 84, “All Year Round”
Some beautiful ways to celebrate the promise of May Day:
- Make a May Pole and invite children to dance! Yes, there are May Pole dances on You Tube if you have never seen one in person!
- Play games – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” recounts that sports at the May Day festival included smearing poles with grease and seeing who could climb to the top the fastest, races on foot, sack races, blindfolded races, wrestling, hopping and jumping contests
- Make ankle bracelets with little bells that ring when you walk and braided wreaths of flowers for the heads of the children you love.
- Make a special May Day cake with a small maypole on the top! Sponge cake is rather traditional.
- Learn music for May Day. Here is a link with some song ideas, including one May Day song from the Appalachian region of the United States!
- Get up early and wash your faces in the morning dew
- Make beautiful May Day baskets or cones and fill them flowers – leave them on your neighbor’s doors
- Decorate your own house with wreaths, garlands, ribbons
- Pick herbs and dry them
- Go on a picnic – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” has suggestions for food
- Some parts of Europe hold bonfires – consider a bonfire!
For more ideas see the following books:
- “Celebrating Irish Festivals”
- “All Year Round”
- “Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions”
- “Festivals, Families and Food”
- “Spring” – Wynstones
- You Tube for videos of May Pole dances
- I have a small “May” Pinterest board that has some ideas as well.
Festivals for small children are in the doing, so please do choose something and start your traditions!