Come to a May Tea at the Lumberyard Arts Center on Saturday, May 3. Come for tea for tea — and see!
May Day celebrations have been observed for eons. In kindergarten I was one of several flower girls in the last May Day celebration held in our town. We threw flower petals from a basket before the Queen and her attendants. The procession slowly paraded from the high school, two short blocks to the courthouse. A gathering of town folks watched the May Queen procession and dancers round the May Pole.
Long ago in England the end of dark and dreary winter was greeted by the Celts with a festival called Beltane. A Queen of the May and her attendants were selected and drawn in a cart pulled by young men, trough the streets of small towns. It has been ever thus: our May Day harks back to the Celts and before that to the Roman goddess of Dawn. The Romans probably borrowed the custom from the Greeks who honored their dawn goddess, Eostre. These customs were gradually introduced into Catholicism mores. In America, stern Protestant New Englanders decided how Christians should behave. They destroyed a maypole and burned the home of the man who erected it. He traded with Indians and had included them in dancing round the maypole.
In an old Baker yearbook I found a picture of Baker students dancing round a maypole. Apparently Baker was a bit more lenient. Kathy Kelly, still missed in the community, told me once, when she attended Vinland school, there were not enough girls to follow the custom of boys and girls alternately dispersed around the maypole. Much to their disgust, several boys were drafted into taking the place of a girl. A scarf was tied to their sleeve to designate a girl and shame-faced did their duty.
Many of us remember those long ago days of our childhood. May Day meant dancing round maypoles. We made May baskets of folded kindergarten paper and filled them with meadow–picked flowers. We hung the baskets on doorknobs for our mothers and grandmothers and perhaps a favorite cookie making neighbor. May Queens and innocent pleasures engaged our time.
Times and customs change. Today May Day seems to connote a politic agenda. May Day Bank Holiday brings out the Morris Dancers in England. In Scotland the Beltane Fire Festival is celebrated. One hundred years ago on May 1, 1890, the first International Workers Day was celebrated. The Haymaker Affair in Chicago 1886 a strike at McCormick harvesting plant culminated in bloodshed. The Haymaker Martyrs are remembered on May Day. Also on this day we celebrate the fight for an eight-hour workday. I give a thankful salute to those who gave us hard-won rights of workers everywhere.
My husband’s first job after World War II was in Rochester, N.Y. I remember a very old man, Mr. Clearwater, who pulled a wagon collecting old clothes. I sometimes chatted with him a bit. He told me when he began working the only holiday he had was Christmas. I do not remember if he worked on Sunday, but he had to work 12 to 15 hours a day. I often remember those long-ago days of my childhood. “Way back when” May Queens, maypoles and May baskets said it all!
Come to an old-fashioned May Day celebration Saturday, May 3 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Lumberyard Arts Center. Support the SWAN THEATER! See Maypole Dancers; and kids can make a May Basket. Take Mother for an early celebration of Mother’s Day!
Hail to the return of the long-ago Roman flower goddess, Flora, the original May Queen bringing sweet May Flowers. Celebrate the return of SPRING.