Happy May Day!

And if you are in the Society for Creative Anachronism, Happy New Year! May 1st is an ancient spring festival celebrated in the northern hemisphere. Traditional activities include dancing around Maypoles, crowning a May Queen, and ask the blessing of fertility for the crops and cattle from whichever god you most believe in. It’s kind of like Festival inthat one episode of TOS Star Trek.

050116 spock
Not this episode, the other one.

If you are writing a historical romance, remember that celebrations like this one were very important. Nobility and peasant alike took the opportunity to enjoy their lives. Morris dancing was all the rage back then. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day

050116 women folk dancers

In the Catholic Church, May Day is used to honor the Virgin Mary, who is considered the Queen of the May. Roses are worked into crowns for statues along with as many vases of roses as will fit beneath the Lady’s altar. Children’s choirs would sing wonderful songs to Her.

050116 virgin crown

Of course, there is a dark side to May Day. The Soviet Union bloc held parades and military shows in almost every little town and village. The party executives would show up in the capitals, workers would carry slogans, and companies would decorate their cars to show support.

Before that, however, May Day became the International Worker’s Day, celebrating the hard work of folks who often had longer days than 8 hours. Unless you are a farmer, you feel pretty bad for them.

050116 may parade

So back to the traditional and ancient Mayday celebrations. Aspects include Morris dancing, Furry Day songs and dances, Walpurga’s Night that is actually the night before, and singing songs that may have been pagan at one time but now are just jolly country songs. You’ll probably recognize Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May, but did you know it’s a corruption of Knots in May? Meaning the little knots of blossoms that appear on branches and bushes in Spring. Very few nuts are actually gathered in May.

050116 MayDaydance

As a Catholic child, I brought roses to the Virgin’s altar with the song, “Daily Sing in Praise of Mary.” When I participated in madrigal singing in the Society for Creative Anachronism, I loved the song Now Is The Month Of Maying. And at RenFairs I learned the song, Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow! I’ve danced the May Pole dance and actually helped achieve a pretty good weave on ours. May celebrations are fun and musical, silly and serious. One can never have too much of most of these.

050116 singers

As a writer, I look for chances to weave this history into the character’s outlook on the world. Fears, superstitions, faiths, and hopes. These help to make a character well rounded and likable. I am so happy to have found this web site and the great information contained there. http://piereligion.org/mayday.html

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.


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