05-01-2010 06:52 PM
May 1 - May Day
May 5 - Cinco de Mayo
May 8 - Truman Day (Mo.)
May 9 - Mother's Day
May 15 - Armed Forces Day
May 22 - National Maritime Day
May 23 - Whitsunday-Pentecost
May 24 - Victoria Day (Canada)
May 27 - Full Flower Moon
May 31 - Memorial Day (observed)
05-01-2010 07:18 PM - edited 05-01-2010 07:26 PM
May Day A cornucopia of holidays by Shmuel Ross
May 1st, often called May Day, just might have more holidays than any other day of the year. It's a celebration of Spring. It's a day of political protests. It's a neopagan festival, a saint's feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it is a national holiday.
Beltane was a Celtic calendar feast ushering in the start of summer. (It also went by a variety of other spellings and names in assorted dialects of Gaelic.)
Bonfires, often created by rubbing sticks together, were common features of Beltane celebrations. Related rituals included driving cattle between two fires, dancing around the fires, and burning witches in effigy. Another tradition was Beltane cakes, which would be broken into several pieces, one of which was blackened. They would be drawn by celebrants at random; the person getting the unlucky blackened piece would face a mock execution
In recent years, Beltaine has been adopted or revived by neopagan groups as a major seasonal festival.
St. Walburga (or Walpurgis), the abbess of the monastery of Heidenheim, helped St. Boniface bring Christianity to 8th Century Germany. She died on Feb. 25, 779. As her remains have been moved on multiple occasions, several days have been designated in her honor, one of which is the first of May.
This date coincided with a pre-existing pagan festival, which, in Germany, included rites to protect one against witchcraft. This led to a hybrid legend developing, in which witches were said to meet with the Devil on the eve of May 1, on the Brocken peak. The night of April 30th became known as "Walpurgisnacht," and the annual meeting was dramatized by Goethe in Faust.
Some cultures, such as those found in India and Egypt, had spring fertility festivals. The Roman festival celebrating Flora, goddess of fertility, flowers, and spring, was celebrated from April 28 through May 3
Bringing in the May
In medieval England, people would celebrate the start of spring by going out to the country or woods—"going a-maying"—and gathering greenery and flowers, or "bringing in the may." This was described in "The Court of Love" (often attributed to Chaucer, but not actually written by him) in 1561:
And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.
(For modern spellings, hold your mouse pointer over unfamiliar words.)
Another English tradition is the maypole. Some towns had permanent maypoles that would stay up all year; others put up a new one each May. In any event, the pole would be hung with greenery and ribbons, brightly painted, and otherwise decorated, and served as a central point for the festivities.
May Day was also a time for morris dancing and other dances, often around the maypole. In the 19th century, people began to braid the maypole with ribbons by weaving in and out in the course of a dance. Other later traditions include making garlands for children and the crowning of the May Queen.
In many countries, May Day is also Labor Day. This originates with the United States labor movement in the late 19th Century. On May 1, 1886, unions across the country went on strike, demanding that the standard workday be shortened to eight hours. The organizers of these strikes included socialists, anarchists, and others in organized labor movements. Rioting in Chicago's Haymarket Square on May 4th including a bomb thrown by an anarchist led to the deaths of a dozen people (including several police officers) and the injury of over 100 more.
The protests were not immediately successful, but they proved effective down the line, as eight-hour work days eventually did become the norm. Labor leaders, socialists, and anarchists around the world took the American strikes and their fallout as a rallying point, choosing May Day as a day for demonstrations, parades, and speeches. It was a major state holiday in the Soviet Union and other communist countries.
Labor Day is still celebrated on May 1 in countries around the world, and it is still often a day for protests and rallies. In recent years, these have often been targeted against globalization
2006: May Day Protests Return to the U.S.
In 2006, United States once again saw widespread political action on May Day this year, centering on the subject of immigration reform. Various groups and communities, under the heading of "A Day Without Immigrants," held rallies, strikes, and consumer boycotts to support the rights of those working and living in the United States, and to protest a bill that would deport many illegal immigrants.
Various authorities have tried to ban or undermine May Day, particularly the communist observances during the Cold War. In 1955, Pope Pius XII designated May 1 as a feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. In 1958, President Eisenhower designated May 1 as both Law Day and Loyalty Day. Each of these were specifically aimed at replacing the communist holiday with a religious or patriotic one.
May Day Bank Holiday
In the United Kingdom, the first Monday of May is a bank holiday. Since May 1 does not always fall on a Monday, May Day festivities have been moved to the Monday bank holiday for the public's convenience. Some communities in England still commence celebrations at sunset on April 30 with processions through town centres and floral decorations. Padstow holds the annual Obby Oss, which is thought to be the oldest May Day celebration in the country dating back to the 13th century.
05-01-2010 08:39 PM
The History of Maypole Dance
The maypole dance comes to us from the Druids of the British Isles, with May Day---May 1---being the second-most-important holiday of their year, because it brought with it the Beltane festival and the observation of pagan fertility rites. May 1 was seen as the beginning of a new year, and fires were lit as part of the celebration.
The maypole began as a pagan phallic symbol, and the dance that took place around it during the Beltane festival was part of the celebration of the Horned God, who was a symbol of fertility. In Roman times, it was part of the celebration of Maia, the goddess of May. Similar dances are held in other cultures, with Scandinavia having a maypole-type dance at midsummer.
The maypole was cut in old Europe by youth who went into the woods and cut down a tree. They removed branches, leaving only a few at the top. They then wrapped it with violets and returned it to the village at daybreak. They blew horns and beat drums to let the rest of the village know May Day had arrived. The tree used as the maypole was typically anywhere from 12 to 60 feet tall.
The maypole dance was originally a circle dance and did not involve ribbons. Evolving over time, the dance became more and more complex. The maypole dance is now often done in figures so that dancers weave in and around one another, and their ribbons, which are attached to the top of the pole, form various patterns. By the 1930s, instruction books provided dancers with steps to create specific patterns with their ribbons, and these patterns had such names as "the Single Plait" and "the Spider's Web."
Nearly every English village had a maypole by the Middle Ages. Adults and children went into the woods with songs and parades to cut the maypole and bring it back to the village. In small villages, the maypole was set up for the day's celebration, and in larger cities, such as London, the maypole remained throughout the year, ready for the next May Day dance.
The Puritan Long Parliament stopped the maypole dance in 1666, and nearly 20 years passed---not until the Stuarts returned to power---before the maypole dance and the celebrating of May Day began again. Because of the strong Puritan influence in America, the May Day celebration was never as prominent a holiday in the U.S. as it was in Britain. However, some American children still perform the maypole dance, moving around the pole to weave colorful ribbons. They may also choose May Day queens and hang baskets on doors to carry on the old tradition
05-01-2010 09:36 PM
I'm showing pictures of Maypoles, the ones just like I had seen in Germany. Every town we went through had their own poles. They each told a story. And in each of these towns, there was dancing and music, and celebrations in all of their pubs, bars, eating establishments. It had to have been the most joyous time of year that I have ever spent. Going from town to town, city to city, throughout the entire month of May, I will always remember with happy thoughts and wonderful memories, of the people who lived there. I'm glad I could take part in this celebration of spring with them.
05-09-2010 01:32 PM