Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day 2011

by Diane Forrest

May Day Baskets

May Day is a day of celebration for workers rights around the world. In some cultures, it is associated with International Workers’ Day or Labor Day.

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times with the festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers. Ancient Celtic cultures also celebrated May Day with a Pagan festival honoring Beltane, the God of the sun.

In more recent centuries, working people would often take the day off to celebrate May Day – without the support of their employers. In 1600’s, Parliament even banned May Day festivities and observances in England. It was reinstated with the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Today in England, May Day celebrations include crowing a May Queen and dancing around the maypole.

Though it was celebrated in Colonial America, today the United States and Canada do not observe May Day. President Eisenhower perceived May Day celebrations as communist so he instead proclaimed May 1st as “Law Day” and moved Labor Day to September.

Growing up I went to a small Presbyterian Day School that went from grades 1 - 6. Each year we celebrated May Day the first Friday of the month. It was a wonderful time! The classes were small, only about 30 in each grade. We began the day at lunch by eating sack lunches with our class under one of the large Oak trees on the ground. Following lunch a group would perform the dance around the may pole. The kids were then divided into two teams, the green and the gold, as those were the school colors. Then began the friendly competition of relay races. Activities such as the sack race, 3-legged race, egg
toss, tug of war, and many others were completed until a team winner was named and the gold loving cup trophy was presented.

Celebrate the rich history of May Day by attending a May Day festival if there is one in your area or by listening to traditional Maypole music!

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