It’s May Day

In medieval England, today would have been a day to gather flowers to “bring in the May.” You’ve heard of the maypole bedecked with garlands?

It’s also the date of Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival. The Gaelic word bealltainn means “May First” and the day was a celebration of the start of summer often accompanied by bonfires. It has seen some revival by neo-pagans.

Shooting back to pre-Christian Rome, it was the time of the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers.

May Day, the first of May, is celebrated with a number of different holidays.

You could celebrate Hawaiian history and culture with Lei Day.

In Minneapolis, there was a big parade and pageant staged by the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre that has been going on since 1975.

Many countries celebrate Labor Day on that day, which dates back to the labor movement in the United States more than a hundred years ago.

Back in 1886, unions around the country went on strike. They were protesting to get an eight-hour workday. Many of the strike organizers were communists, socialists and anarchists and so May Day became associated with communism. It was a big national holiday in the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower tried to rebrand the day back during the anti-communist Cold War years into Law Day and Loyalty Day.

The first of May is also a celebration of spring and fertility in places like Egypt and India.

In Germany, May first was the date of a pagan festival that Christians flipped into the feast day of St. Walpurgis. The night before — Walpurgisnacht — is still celebrated in parts of rural Germany as a kind of Valentine’s Day.