15 Fun Facts about May Day
It’s the start of May and the weather grows ever warmer. As we start to think about summer travel plans, let’s take a look at some fun and interesting facts about May Day.
- May Day is a public holiday in many parts of the world.
- The celebration of this day has Pagan origins and is linked both to Beltane (a Celtic/Gaelic festival – the name means ‘day of fire’) and Walpurgis Night (celebrated the night before May Day).
- One of the traditional celebrations of the day is dancing around a maypole decorated with ribbons. The maypole is said to be a fertility symbol.
- Originally, the maypole was made from a growing tree cut from the woods.
- Others are crowning a Queen of May and handing out May baskets.
- Collecting greenery to make garlands was another traditional May celebration; for that reason some parts of the UK still call it Garland Day.
- In some parts of the UK, May Day is celebrated with traditional Morris dancing.
- In pre-Christian times, May 1 was seen as the first day of summer.
- It is said that girls used to get up early and wash their faces with May dew to improve their complexions.
- In some parts of Germany, the first of May is a day to send a token to someone you love. Men in the Rhineland will have a tree with streamers sent to a girl’s house. Girls can return the favor in leap years. Beware, though, if the streamers are white, they signal dislike.
- In Hawaii, May 1 is known as Lei Day, a day for celebrating Hawaiian culture.
- The day used to be celebrated in the US by early settlers from Europe. It is not an official holiday here.
- May 1 is also a day of celebration for the international labor movement. It’s known as International Worker’s Day or Labor Day. The US Labor Day celebration takes place in September. Ironically, the movement to start an 8 hour work day began in the US in the 19th century.
- Some places in the US continue the traditional May Day celebrations, though not always on the right date. For example, Bluffton University has had an annual celebration since 1910 which includes the maypole dance. This ties in with celebrations for the end of the school year.
- This has nothing to do with the holiday, but the Empire State Building opened on May 1, 1931. President Hoover pressed the button which turned on the lights.
Do you live in an area with May Day celebrations? Please share your experience in the comments.
Image credit: Mike Goren