History of May Day – pagan Spring rituals and Communist Workers Unite!

When I hear the words “May Day”, I think of May poles, flowers and little girls in white dresses with crowns of flowers on their heads. Someone else I know says it reminds her of the smell of library paste and a May pole on the school grounds (why didn’t we have one of those at our school?) From a cursory search, I found out that this is common in England.

Is that the Queen of the May on her throne?

Wikipedia says that May Day on May 1 is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the celebrations that the day includes.

The name of the pagan festival in Great Britain that is celebrated on the same day is Beltane/Beltaine, or Bonfire Day. It is approximately half way between the Spring equinox and the Summer solstice, and is an important Gaelic festival. There is a modern version of this, called the Beltane fire festival, which is celebrated in Edinburgh, Scotland each year.

Copyright Mark.S.I.Taylor for Beltane Fire Society.

There are other, similar, festivals that have occurred throughout the world since ancient times.

In the 1900’s, Communists began to celebrate Worker’s Day on May 1. The date was chosen by an organization of socialist and communist political parties to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on May 4 1886. In 1904 a call went out to “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

There you have it. My five-minute history of May Day. Personally, I still prefer the little girls with flowers in their hair.

By the way, have you ever heard of Morris dancing? That is something that is done in England on May Day too. Apparently, there are all kinds, but Morris dancing is known to have been done at least as early as Elizabethan times in England.

However you decide to celebrate May day, take care, don’t over do, and – whatever you do – don’t accidentally set yourself on fire!

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16 Responses to History of May Day – pagan Spring rituals and Communist Workers Unite!

  1. Lucille says:

    We had a May Day celebration every year–1st grade thru 6th grade. It was a fun day with a May pole, wearing of flowers–fake and real, composing artworks in the classroom, a special snack provided by some of the mothers, but none of the “workers” bit in my small relatively conservative community in the southern California countryside.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gil says:

    May day was explained to me as a kid like you remember Stella. I think i visited a couple schools that had May poles. Never once have I seen a celebration. May day in CA has been co opted by illegals and the left for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joshua says:

    Cake? Cake?

    I will dance around a pole for CAKE.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Menagerie says:

    On Sunday between masses at the Basilica, there will be a procession of the children, all carrying flowers for Mary. One young lady will place a crown of flowers on her head, and our priests will lead the children in a few brief prayers. Last year we must have had a hundred children, from those in parents’ arms to the young teens.

    May is the month of special devotions to the Blessed Virgin, and in many homes people will have a similar celebration, placing flowers before a picture or statue of Mary. There will often be daily rosary recitations in homes and parishes, and almost every parish will have a person leading the rosary before each mass.

    I myself will use this month to teach my grandchildren more about Mary, and the Hail Mary. I’ll let them put flowers on my little bookshelf where I keep some small statues and tiny icons.

    Here’s a link with more background.


    Liked by 2 people

  5. joshua says:

    not so sure about Morris hankie waving…looks like teaching how to surrender to music.


  6. auscitizenmom says:

    I remember some of the schools I went to in the elementary grades had May poles. I remember dancing around them. It was a lot of fun.


  7. joshua says:

    and then there is the Muslim version…..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. czarowniczy says:

    In our area of Germany in the early 60s there were hard feelings towards May poles as many still had memories of their being used in Nazi-related celebrations just a few years back. Matter of fact, I can’t recall one the whole time we lived there.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I lived in Scotland, I was told it was a Pagan Festival celebrating the Queen of Spring. The Morris dancing was a hoot! They also had a wooden horse puppet, but I’m not so sure what he was all about! They would have parades all over the UK in little villages, with the local pubs all doing floats. My DH and Daughter took place on a float one year in Belford England (near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne). They had so much fun. We weren’t too sure about the whole thing, but took part whole heartedly

    Liked by 2 people

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