“…’Tis May, Tis May
The lusty month of May,
When everyone and everything,
Goes Blissfully Astray!…”
Oh Joy! Thursday is May Day! Although still celebrated with great passion in many other parts of the world, it has, unfortunately, for the most part, fallen by the wayside in the U.S.
Mayday was one of the cross-quarter holidays that belonged to the workers, and yes, it had it’s roots in ancient Pagan tradition. However, even with the advent of Christianity, in the predominantly rural/agricultural era of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and in many places up through WWI, these cross quarter holidays, in particular May Day was a day set aside as a time for the workers to celebrate and recreate themselves.
Landlords, (farm owners) were required to provide a feast for all their employees. There were even special casks of ale set down for the occasion. There would be games and dancing, feasting and general revelry throughout the country side, and of course the Maypole and Morris Dancing were of prime importance.
Many communities had their own special celebrations and traditions, some of which continue to this day, like the Padstow Hobby Os, and the Helston Furry Dance. In the village of Clun, the Green Man and the Frost Queen do battle. After the battle, the Green Man leads a garland-festooned parade through the village. And there is Morris Dancing a Maypole on the site of the ancient Cerne Abbas Giant. The Giant is one of the chalk hill figures scattered across England. He is 180 feet. His phallus alone is 18 feet.
Young people rose before the sun rise and went into the woods and fields to gather The May, (flowers and greenery) to decorate the houses. It was believed that this would bring good fortune.
“…There’s not a budding boy, or girl, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May…”
Young women would get up before the sunrise to wash their faces in the morning dew at first light. It was believed this would bring beauty.
It’s sad that this gladsome holiday went away. Since it was originally a holiday of celebration for workers, the Soviet Union embraced it as a day of celebration. During the cold war, we in the U.S. of course couldn’t celebrate anything those, “dirty commies,” did, so we quit celebrating May Day. Unfortunately, even the cold war is long over, May Day has not come back.
There are fortunately, a few staunch traditionally who still hold celebrations. Below are a few of the places in the San Francisco Bay Area where you enjoy a May Day Celebration.
In Sebastopol, the Apple Tree Morris Men will celebrate with dancing in the field behind the Sebastopol Community Center on 425 Morris Street. The dancing begins at 5:30 A.M. There will be a pot luck breakfast following.
The Goat Hill Morris of San Francisco, will dance the sun up at the top of Twin Peaks, starting about 5:30, and in Berkeley, the dancers meet on Inspiration Point, high up on Wildcat Canyon Road in Tilden Park. The Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance will begin at sunrise. The dancers will then tour through various parts of Berkeley.
In Palo Alto the Deer Creek Morris and Mad Molly dancers will meet and begin dancing at 5:30 a.m. at the Palo Alto Baylands; traditional Morris, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance and English Country dancing for everyone.
Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-O
The summer is a-coming in
And winter’s gone away-O