So What is May Day?
You have heard of May Day, and you know it is on May 1st every year, but do you know what it is? Do you know why we call May 1st “May Day”? There are a number of reasons, and they all are reasons to celebrate!
In ancient Ireland, the Celts measured the year by the path of the sun. They divided the year into four quarters, called Quarter Days (the solstices and equinoxes), then divided each section in half, which gave them cross-quarter days. These divisions not only echoed the four seasons, but they fit the sequences of their farming cycle.
What we now know as May 1st was the Celts Beltane, which marked the halfway point between spring equinox and summer solstice, and was considered the beginning of summer. Seeds had been planted and were beginning to sprout, so May Day became a day to celebrate.
May Day Traditions
After Roman Catholicism swept through Europe and the British Isles, May Day evolved into more than just a celebration of the sprouting crops. As the old saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers”, so the first day of May became a day to celebrate the beauty of spring flowers. Dancing around the maypole was part of festivals, which would include plays, dance performances, and the crowning of a “May Queen”.
Christianity also introduced the “May crowning”, where artists would create works featuring the Virgin Mary wearing a crown of flowers. In 1955, Pope Pius XII chose May Day as a feast day to honor St Joseph the Worker.
Another tradition, which has faded over the years, is the tradition of giving “May baskets”. These small baskets were filled with flowers or sweets, or a combination of both, and left on a neighbor’s doorstep anonymously. The person giving the basket was to knock on the door and yell, “May basket!”, then run off. If the neighbor caught the person as they were fleeing, the recipient was entitled to a kiss.
How Will You Celebrate May Day?
Now that you know what May Day is and how it was observed in the past, what will you do to honor this long-standing holiday? If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you could go for a walk and enjoy all the beautiful flowers in your neighborhood. Maybe this year would be a good time to bring back the May basket tradition.
Another option to welcome summer is to pack up all of your winter items and pull out the summer stuff! If you need a place to put those coats, skis, and sleds, look no further than Safeguard Self Storage. We have a variety of sizes available to suit just about any need and with over 73 locations, we are likely located in your neighborhood.