May Day, May Day!

May Day is a seasonal celebration that is both ancient in origin and with customs and traditions that continue into modern-day life. It rejoices in the brighter, warmer days that lead us into summer and the vibrant growth of vegetation and flowers in the outdoor world. It‘s a time of year filled with folklore and folksongs, and many people have strong memories of past May Day events or have created their own local, seasonal festivities.

In the past greenery and tree blossom were gathered on May Day morning to decorate houses and public spaces. Young women went to wash their faces in the dew to bring good luck in love and young men gathered posies of flowers to give to their sweethearts…

Do you remember anyone in your family taking part in May Day morning customs?

May Blossom (c) Timo-c-Dinger

Maypoles are the physical and figurative centre-piece of May Day festivities They are hung with coloured ribbons for communal dancing with different weaving patterns having their own names, e.g. Spiders Web and Gypsy Tent…

Did you learn Maypole dances at school? Can you remember any songs are tunes that accompanied the dancing?

May Day usually involved choosing a May Queen as the symbolic representative of Flora, the goddess of flowers and summer growth. She would then preside over the rest of the day’s festivities: processions, playing games and presentations…

Were you, or anyone in your family, ever chosen as a May Queen? What did you wear and how did you feel?

View from Abbotsbury (c) Rosie Mathisen

Abbotsbury is famous for its Garland Day, held in May, where a huge wreath of flowers is paraded by school children down to the beach. Cerne Abbas has a more recent tradition of gathering at the top of Giant Hill to greet the rising sun, followed by Morris Dancing and merry-making in the village.

Do you live anywhere in Dorset that celebrates May Day? Tell us more…

What would you choose to celebrate about this time of year?

Spring is the perfect time of year to be out and about enjoying the landscape, seeing nature burst back into life and enjoying the sights and smells that the warming weather brings.