May 1, 2012

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. 

Once my children grew up and had families of their own,  I started making little baby or small care home lap quilts to give away instead. It simply became my new way of expressing an old tradition and welcome in the advent of Spring and new life. 

These went to a new young mother with her first child just born, and to another child, same father, whose other child was in foster care.

And then, one May Day, I had a nice long visit to an adult foster home where I sat and drank tea with 3 seniors, all in their 90's, and visited while they ate their breakfasts. You learn so much from others, if you just take the time to care!

And of course, nothing older adults love more than a nice visit, some pretty flowers, and a good conversation shared by all! 

Another May Day, I was the one who had a surprise visitor! Definitely the biggest May Day surprise most people could have. I opened my fron door and a neighbor's escaped pig waltzed on in (no doubt hearing in his own head the classic waltz of all time, The Watlz of the Flowers!  Ha!

Oh what fun one can have on a holiday most people don't recognize, know the history of, or celebrate!

Happy May Day to all of you! 



Joyce said...

I always enjoy reading your blog. It never fails that I learn something new here. Thanks for the information on May Day. We celebrate May Day each year, but for a different reason. My husband and I are celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary today.

Michele Bilyeu said...

Awesome! Congratulations and Best Wishes, Joyce and her hubby!!! Happy May Day Anniversary!

Lynne said...

What lovely traditions. We don't celebrate May Day in Australia - perhaps because it is the middle of autumn and starting to get really cool.

Anonymous said...

I love reading about all of this! How fun and I love your quilts.

Clare said...

Belated happy May Day to you too.