Happy May Day!

Posted by on May 1, 2009 at 12:35 pm.
Knock-Out Rose Bud

Knock-Out Rose Bud

I remember celebrating May Day as a kid.  We would make construction paper cones with a pipe cleaner hanger and decorate it with ribbons.  Then we would go to a field and pick wild flowers (I even remember doing some with flower out of the yard), wrap them in wet newspaper and wax paper and then put them in the cone.  We hung them on the doors of neighbors, rang the bell and then ran to hide.   It seems so simple, but we had so much fun with it!  I don’t know how we came to celebrate May Day so much since most of the US doesn’t (the Puritans were NOT amused by it) but perhaps it was because Garden City, KS had a rather large German population.

May Day was originally a fertility celebration of the pagans that was around long before Christianity.  It was an important holiday for the Romans who dedicated the day to ‘Flora’, the goddess of flowers.  During the reign of the Puritans, the celebration was discouraged, but it was still an important holiday in Europe when they fell out of power.

The Maypole was a tradition during the middle ages, and competition among villages, to find the largest pole and erect it in the village center.  The Maypole disappeared when the Puritan Long Parliament forbid it in 1644 but it was revived when the Stuarts regained power.  Gradually, the May Day celebration became less about celebrating spring fertility and more about kids enjoying a day of joy and merriment.  The Maypole even became a symbol of freedom during the French Revolution when it became the ‘Tree of Liberty.’

I even remember dancing around a Maypole in grade school and choosing a May Queen who was crowned with a daisy-chain crown.  I wish I had thought ahead a little bit and had made May baskets with Samantha this year!  Maybe after school today?  We’ll see.

In the US, May Day became politically tied to the fight for a shorter work day.  On May First, 1886, unions enacted a national strike for the 8-hour work day.  The strike center was in Chicago, but strikes where also held in New York, Baltimore, Washington, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit among other smaller walkouts.  I’m very grateful for the strikers and the 8-hour workday!  Happy May Day!


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