Thursday, April 29, 2010

May Day Baskets and May Pole

May Day is Saturday.  It brings back many wonderful memories of my childhood, growing up in South Dakota.  I will talk about that later.  First, I want to share some information I found out about May Day.

I did not realize that May Day is a traditional holiday in many cultures:  Europe, England, Finland, Ireland, France, Scotland, Germany, Russia, and in this country.  I talked with someone who was raised in Hawaii and she told me, "Oh, yes, we celebrated there too."

May Day falls exactly half of a year from November 1.  It marks the end of winter.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary's month.

The tradition of  "the giving of May Baskets" is fading in popularity.  However, when I was a child, my mother and I made little baskets out of wallpaper scraps, cupcake papers, or cardboard.  We would fill them with candy or homemade cookies.  In late afternoon, she let me go to our neighbors' houses and I would put the basket by the door, knock, and run away.  I used to make little baskets with my children and they would do the same thing.  This tradition ended with their children.  There are just too many other things going on in our grandchildrens' lives. 

May Day is best known for its tradition of dancing the Maypole and crowning a Queen of May.
The only time I witnessed a "dancing around the Maypole" was when I attended a German Russian Heritage Fest in Redwood City, CA in 2002. I am guessing the pole was 12 feet high and it was decorated with flowers at the top.  The dancers each held a streamer and did a circle dance around the pole weaving in and out with the other dancers so that the different colors formed a pretty effect on the pole. 

A old tradition of the dancers was that the woman used the May Pole dance as an opportunity to show off their handmade wardrobe.     

May Day has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the centuries.  It is associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings.  Since May lst is the Feast of St. Philip & St. James, they became the patron saints of workers.

In rural areas of Germany, bonfires and wrapping of maypoles were held the night before May day when young people used this opportunity to party.  May 1, is also celebrated by the delivery of a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before.  The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike.  In America, the may basket is left at someone's door, the giver rings the bell and runs away.  The person receiving the basket trys to catch the fleeing giver.  If caught the person gives them a kiss.  Sounds like a lot of fun.  Kids don't know what they are missing.

So, happy May Day to you and yours.  Think about keeping the tradition alive.  Make some May Baskets with your kids.

God Bless