Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy May Day

On May Day eve, folks once went into the woods to collect branches and "go a-Maying." In the morning, they would emerge and the men would bring a live hawthorn tree to the village to make a maypole. Everyone from the highest-ranking official to the lowest peasant participated in the celebration as equals. The holiday evolved and now May Day, which once represented the beginning of summer, life, fertility and renewal, is now celebrated in most countries as International Labor Day. The most common folk name we have for the Hawthorn is the May Tree. The may blossom appears on the tree at the beginning of May in the south of England, at the time of the Beltane or May Day celebrations, when people and houses were decked with may blossoms ("bringing home the May"). The popular rhyme "Here we go gathering nuts in May" is thought to have been sung by the young men, gathering not "nuts" (which do not grow in May) but "knots" of may blossoms for the May Day Celebrations. These celebrations included a May Queen, representing the Goddess, and a Green May, representing the God and the spirit of the new vegetation. It was known as the "Merry Month" and folk went about "wearing the green", decking themselves in greenery and may blossom. Everywhere, everything is bursting with life and fertility at this time, and Beltane is a celebration of this potential. The cutting of the may blossom had great significance and symbolised the beginning of new life and the onset of the growing season.

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