May Day: Our Senior Registrar, Sian, gives us an overview about its History and Traditions

Happy May Day! Today is 1st May and for many people is the start of summer and therefore a time to celebrate the warmer weather with lots of different customs. It is also said to be a time of love and romance! In many European countries May Day celebrations have their origins in the Roman festival of Flora, which marked the beginning of summer. Flora was the goddess of fruit and flowers. Different kinds of traditional customs and celebrations will take place all over the world today. Here in the UK one of the most popular traditions is a May Day dance known as Maypole Dancing. This mainly rural tradition originates on the ancient practice of people cutting down trees and sticking them in the ground in the centre of the village to mark the arrival of summer. People danced around them in celebration of the end of the winter and start of the fine weather that would allow planting to begin. Maypoles were once common all over the country. These days the tradition continues in many smaller towns and villages, where Maypole dancing is a serious business. It does in fact involve careful choreography to create complex patters of woven, multicoloured ribbons around the pole.

By the late 19th century, May Day was taken up in America as a socialist movement celebrating worker’s rights. This movement continues today. This more modern May Day tradition of representing workers rights remains even stronger in Europe and mass rallies and protests will taking place in most major European cities today. Most countries will have a public holiday today but here in the UK we will have our holiday on Monday. Either way most of us will be having an extra long weekend so enjoy it and any celebrations or rallies that you might be taking part in! Tell us about the traditional May Day celebrations in your country!

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