Of all of the holidays celebrated nowadays, May Day is probably one of the most ancient ones. It’s a holiday that’s been celebrated since ancient times and each culture has celebrated it in its own way. It’s been a pagan holiday associated with fertility, it has been associated with labor rights in the U.S, and had other meanings associated with it through the centuries. In modern times, it’s a holiday that falls on the 1st of May and is a great day to plant flowers and to prepare for the arrival of summer—which occurs in June.
The History Of May Day
As we said in our intro, May Day is an ancient holiday. Historians believe that the seeds of this holiday began with the Roman festival Floralia. This was a celebration of nature and fertility that took place around early May. It was originally a holiday that was dedicated to the goddess Flora.
The Romans weren’t the only ones who had a festival at the beginning of May. The Celts also had the festival Beltane—a day that marked the first day of summer and was considered to be the best time for people to put their animals out to pasture so they could graze. They also used it to celebrate the death of winter and the birth of a new cycle of life—or the transition of the seasons from the winter to the spring and eventually to summer.
Even though we can’t go into depth about the progression of this holiday through the centuries, we can cover some of its major highlights. May Day became a day for people to collect flowers to make into bouquets for their homes and people would also perform a maypole dance. This dance originally started as people decorating a tree in flowers and then dancing around it, but it would evolve into an actual pole with many ropes hanging from it that children would dance around.
At certain times, May Day as a holiday has been banned for being a blasphemous pagan ritual and then during the 18th century, it would become associated with workers’ rights. This is why International Workers Rights also falls on the first day of May.
Observing May Day
One of the primary ways to celebrate this holiday is with a May Day festival, and this can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. If you want to spend the days collecting flowers, or making May Day Baskets, then that’s a great way to celebrate this holiday. If you want to erect a May Day pole and dance around it, then that’s another great way to celebrate this holiday.
Of course, there are other ways that this holiday can be celebrated. People can gift friends and family members with flower bulbs for them to plant in their yards, they can make crowns made out of flowers, or they can simply use the hashtag #MayDay on their social media accounts. It’s completely up to you.