May 1, 2008

Happy May Day!

Ever since my children were young, we have practiced the tradition of collecting and giving May Day flowers. We would make pretty little baskets or paper doily cones, fill them up with whatever flowers were available in our yard or from the shrubbery and then hurry to set them by our neighbors doors....knocking to alert them, then running and hiding as quickly as we could.

We always expected the tradition to be returned back, and we always enjoyed being 'surprised' anyway. It became a contest to see who would remember the date first and get their flowers first to the door. We looked forward to May 1st, every single year, with great anticipation.

The origins of May Day, like many of our holidays come from ancient times and cultures. The Druids believed it was the day that divided the year into half and to celebrate this milestone, they lit huge bonfires to signify the burgeoning of the springtime sun. Every one passed through the smoke for purification and good luck.

When the Romans came, it changed to a worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers. In her honor, everyone celebrated for five days...April 28 to May 2. Bit by bit, the celebration of the Celtic Beltane, and the Roman Floralia combined. With the advent of the Puritans in the British Isles, rites changed, once again. The old ways may have been put away, and new ones came in, but the tradition of flowers and merriment continued. The tradition of the giving of flowers and dancing around the Maypole (known as 'The Tree of Liberty"during the French Revolution) continue today in many countries and have simply come to signify a welcoming in of Spring.

Instead of flowers, I now make and give away little quilts. These are all going to new babies, the tiniest ones to premature infants in a neo-natal unit. It is my new way of expressing an old tradition and welcome in the advent of Spring and new life.

Happy May Day to all of you!


Finn said...

And a happy May Day to you too Michele!
Lovely little quilts, great gifts. I miss the little hanging baskets of flowers on the door knobs...but I did see great dandy-lions today in the town of my birth *VBS* Hugs, Finn

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