May Day basket

Did anyone put a May Day basket on your door?

Maypole Dance

It is May Day, a name that derives from the Greek goddess Maia, the most important of the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades) and the mother of Hermes. Her name became the name for this month. The Romans called her Maius, goddess of Summer, and honored her during Ambarvalia.

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries.

May Day celebrations continued throughout Europe and traveled to the New World with Maypole dances and May baskets filled with flowers or treats left secretly at someone’s doorstep. If the receiver of a basket catches the giver, a kiss is exchanged.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary’s month, and May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary with works of art, school ceremonies etc. Statues of Mary will sometimes be adorned with a ring of flowers in a May crowning.

May first is also International Workers’ Day which is also known as May Day and is a celebration of the international labor movement. This celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement.  May 1 was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago that occurred on May 4, 1886.

Because May 1 also marks the traditional European Spring holiday May Day as well, it is a national public holiday in more than 80 countries. In some of those countries, it is the public holiday officially celebrated as Labor Day or some variation without the spring associations.

Beltane is an ancient Celtic festival which came into English from the Gaelic word bealltainn which literally means “May First.” Though the weather in Paradelle and many other places would not suggest the transition of spring to summer this early, traditionally large bonfires would be lit to celebrate this transition of seasons and the fertility of all things.

Cattle were once driven through the Beltane bonfires for purification and fertility (not to be killed).

The annual Beltane Fire Festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland is one still existing modern example.

Today, the neo-pagan community, often associated with the art of fire dancing, have also embraced the Beltane festivities.

In Wales, Creiddylad was a character connected with this festival and often called the May Queen. The maypole and its dance is a remnant of these old festivities.

In Finland, May 1 was celebrated as Rowan Witch Day, a time of honoring the goddess Rauni, who was associated with the mouton ash or rowan tree. Twigs and branches of the rowan were, and still are, used as protection against evil in this part of the world.

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