May Day
May Day
May Day on May 1st & it's Roman Roots: the Floralia  from April 28 --- May 3
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Half year mark
Worker's Day
Maia = May & mother earth
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Flora, the Goddess of Blossoms and Flowers (1880)  De Morgan Foundation Collection

When the Romans came to occupy the British Isles. The beginning of May was a very popular feast time for the Romans. It was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers.

A Global Multicultural
Many schools around the world use the observance of May Day as a rich source of multicultural activities that can complement the May curriculum. Dancing around the Maypole is an often popular activity for the younger children, although the boys may need a little encouragement.

The original meaning of the Maypole dates back to the spring fertility festivals of India and Egypt. The Maypole was decorated with flowers and streamers. The streamers were held by dancers who circled the pole, weaving a pattern as they passed each other during the dance. The pole represents the masculine principle of nature whereas the wreath represents the feminine principle.

Half year mark
May Day is exactly a half-year from November 1, All Saints' Day. For the Druids of the British Isles, May 1 was the second most important holiday of the year. Because, it was when the festival of Beltane held. It was thought that the day divides the year into half. The other half was to be ended with the Samhain on November 1.
"If we use the solar cycle, which would be most apparent cycle to the old agrarian communities of Europe and North America, May 1st is the approximate beginning for the start of Solar Summer. This day starts the quarter of the year with the greatest potential sunlight and the longest days north of the Tropic of Capricorn.

Many of the so-called folk or pagan festivals and days of observance were tied to the solar and lunar cycles and the great cycles of life. By the start of May, most trees are in full leaf, many Spring flowers are in bloom and the Earth is brimming with both plant and animal life taking advantage of the high sun levels and ever warmer temperatures. The longer daylight hours allow folks to take advantage of the natural light for both work and play."

Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM

The hawthorn’s "orgiastic use … corresponds with the cult of the Goddess Flora, and.. accounts for the English medieval habit of riding out on May Morning to pluck flowering hawthorn boughs and dance around the maypole. Hawthorn blossom has, for many men, a strong scent of female sexuality; which is why the Turks use a flowering branch as an erotic symbol."
Robert Graves (1895 - 1985), The White Goddess, p. 176

MAIA- Earth Goddess of May

The only month that was certainly named after a deity is March but it is very possible that Maia, the daughter of Atlas and Pleione and mother of Mercury [Hermes] by Jupiter gives May its name. Another possibility is for Bona Dea, the earth goddess of chastity and fruitfulness of women
I have come to the fourth month, full of honor for you; Venus, you know both the poet and the month are yours."
It was later said that "April was sacred to Venus, and her festival “the Festum Veneris and Fortuna VirilisâÄ
“occurred on the first day of this month." Apparently Aprilis stems from aphrilis, corrupted from Aphrodite, or from Apru, an Etruscan borrowing of Greek Aphrodite, a fertility goddess. Alternatively, it may stem from the Latin aperire (to open), as so many buds and blossoms open in this month.
 However there is little debate that the month was dedicated to the fertility goddess the Romans called Venus and the Greeks named Aphrodite.
June dedicated to the goddess of marriage, Juno make and excellent triad for festivals inspired by love with Venus and Maia.

The Month of May is named after the goddess Maia, the wife of Mars, Mother to Mercury.

Since the dawn of time, human-kind has celebrated the spirit and intention of the season in ritual and festival.  These fecund festival forms continue to release spirits of the season across time and geography.

Cultural traditions, especially myth, cult and religion, are tenaciously preserved in nonphysical forms but constantly being transformed by time and contact with other stories, rhythms and colors. It is this spirit which is the way of truth to life’s renewal.

The festival of Floralia or Florales Ludi

 Flora, , Goddess of Spring, Flowers, and youthful pleasures  The Queen of Spring is a beautiful and serene Goddess. She was married to Zephyrus, the west wind. Flora is the twin sister to Faunus, the god of wild creatures, originally was called Sabine was also known as Chloris to the Greeks.

It was a  celebration of Nature in full blossom, a carnival of sexual fun and liberty and marked by the consumption of oceans of grog. Beans and other seeds were planted, representing fecundity. Originally a movable feast controlled by the condition of the crops and flowers, it’s believed to have been instituted in 238 BCE under the command of an oracle in the Sibylline books, with the purpose of gaining from the goddess the protection of the blossoms. Games were instituted in honour of Flora at that time, but were soon discontinued before being restored in 173 BCE in the consulship of L Postumius Albinus and M Popilius Laenas as a six-day festival, after storms had destroyed crops and vines.

Offerings of milk and honey were made on this day and the surrounding five days, which comprise the Florifertum. The city would have been decorated in  flowers, and the people would wear floral wreaths or flowers in their hair. Day and night there were games, pantomimes, theatre and stripteases with people of all classes in their brightest clothes. Goats and hares were let loose as they represented fertility. Gift-giving for the season included small vegetables as tokens of sex and fertility.

It was celebrated annually with games (ludi Florales) These farces and mimes, which received official recognition, were known for their licentiousness. The courtesans and prostitutes of Rome,  regarded the day as their own, performing naked in the theater and,
suggests Juvenal (Satire VI), fought in the gladiatorial arena. Early sexual performances of  were probably for the promotion of fertility, but before long the season was a celebration of general sexual freedom among the whole populace until the authorities clamped down.

The final fifth festival day called Florifertum:
Flora was also the goddess of Spring, especially associated with vines, olives, fruit trees and honey-bearing plants. A temple was built for her at the Circus Maxima between the Aventine and the Palatine hills, and a shrine at the Quirinal at which corn stalks were offered. When Augustus became Pontifex Maximus, he built a chapel to Vesta in his own house on the Palatine, and dedicated it on this day, which was made a public holiday.

 Hekate was celebrated the last three days of each lunar month. On May 1, Roman women honored her as Bona Dea, the Good Goddess. They met in secret by night to invoke her names: Fauna of the animals, Damia lady of wild places, Ops giver of abundance, Fatua speaker of prophecies, Tarentia of the underworld, Rhea the sky mother, Maia Majestas Queen of the May
The sixth day of the new moon of May is the birthday of Artemis, Goddess of birth and protector of wild creatures. The seventh day of the May moon is the birthday of her brother Apollo, for whom one-day-old Artemis acted as midwife


Scandinavia & Germany: 
Walpurgis Night

Viking fertility celebrations took place around April 30 and due to Walburga being declared a saint at that time of year, her name became associated with the celebrations. Walburga was worshipped in the same way that Vikings had celebrated spring and as they spread throughout Europe, the two dates became mixed together and created the Walpurgis Night celebration.

Walpurgisnacht, the night of April 30th, is a night on which people, including witches, conduct rituals to ward off the evil spirits of winter, and children play pranks on unsuspecting victims around midnight

Walpurgis is one of the main holidays during the year in both Sweden and Finland, alongside of Christmas and Midsummer. The festival is named after Saint Walburga a nun who was also a Saxon princess and was made a saint on May 1st.
Berlin, Germany traditionally has yearly demonstrations on May Day. There is little political or religious connection to the Walpurgisnacht celebrations.  the night when allegedly the witches hold a large celebration on the Blocksberg and await the arrival of Spring. Maypoles remain common in Scandinavian countries, and the trimmings are often left through summer and winter as a gesture to symbolically insure the coming of spring the following year


Japan: there is the so-called May sickness, a kind of sickness where new students or workers start to be tired of their new schoolwork or jobs. It is due to a Japanese custom that all schoolyears and fiscal years start on April 1st.
Spain: On May Day by the old-style Julian calendar in Spain, Mary of Fatima appeared above an oak tree, wearing a crown of roses.
France: the May Tree became the "Tree of Liberty" and was the symbol of the French Revolution. Despite the new nomenclature, the peasants treated the tree in the same traditional spirit. And they would dance around it the same way as their forefathers had always done.

Celtic Beltane [Ireland & Scotland]
Beltane--the word means "brilliant sacred fire" is now more commonly known as May Day. People danced around bonfires on hilltops, moving in a clockwise, or "sunwise" direction. Later generations would dance around a pole instead of a fire.

Maia is analogous to the Irish Queen Medb or Maeve, the faery Queen Mab and Lady May. Beltane was held to mark and celebrate the blossoming of spring, and coincided with the ancient pastoral event of moving livestock to their summer grazing. While Beltane originally did not occur on any fixed solar date it tended to be held on the first full moon after the modern 1st of May

It was a celebration of the fertility of the land and their animals. The main traditional element which was common to all Beltane festivals was the fire which gave it its name. All the fires of the community would be extinguished and a new, sacred 'Need Fire' was lit by either the village head or spiritual leader. From this source one or two bonfires were lit, and the animals of the community would be driven through or between them. It was believed that the smoke and flame of the fires would purify the herd, protecting them in the year to come and ensuring a good number of offspring. The inhabitants of the village would then take pieces of the fire to their homes and relight their hearths, and dance clockwise around the bonfires to ensure good portents for them and their families.

Edmonton’s May Week Labour Arts Festival brings together the labour movement, workers and artists to celebrate and support working class culture and the contributions of artists and workers to our society.

May Week’s goal is to promote the interests of cultural workers and trade unionists, and to bring working-class culture from the margins of cultural activity onto centre Edinburgh's Beltane festival originates in the Scottish and Irish Gaelic pre-Christian festival of the same name.

UK [England, Wales]
In the England and much of the UK, traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, celebrating Green Man day and dancing around a Maypole. The nationally observed Spring Bank Holiday helps celebrate May Day on the first Monday after May, and this together with the labor movement rallies and efforts to join forces with other oppressed people to bring attention to popular struggles all mix with more these traditional gatherings with ancient pagan roots make the holiday weekend memorable.
Mary we crown you with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels
And Queen of the May.

Contemporary folk song sung by Roman Catholic schoolchildren in the UK. The month is dedicated to Mary

Robin Hood and Maid Marian lead games all over Britain. Chimney sweeps hold parades, carrying effigies of the Green Man decked with flowers through the streets. Hobby horse dances and Morris dances take place from May 1 through May 8, the last day of Beltane. Children born in the week "between the Beltanes" have second sight and the powers and skills of all creatures. Taliesin was found in the salmon trap of his foster-father Elphin on May Day, a magical Beltane child who became chief bard of Britain

Prior to the Restoration, May was a time of great revelry, summer was greeted by men blowing cow horns. Young women would rise early to cleanse their faces in May morning dew and blankets would be soaked in the same, in the belief that sick children would be cured once wrapped in them.  Almost every village in England had a maypole, but the Puritans forbid them through an official Act of Parliament in 1664. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1661, May Day was once again celebrated.

On the restoration of the monarchy a Charles II General Wade raised the famous maypole in April 1661 on The Strand in London to celebrate the king's return to the capital. According to contemporary sources it stood 41 yards high. However, it would appear that the restored maypole became occasional displays of public rejoicing. The fate of the Strand maypole was not ignominious, in 1717 it was purchased by Sir Isaac Newton and transported to Essex where it was adapted to support his 'great telescope'.

The down time caused the holiday to lose some of its sexual license and for many communities May Day and its daytime Maypole replaced Beltane and its nighttime fire. However Ireland and Scotland still continue to keep fires burning bright.

A great many local fairs, parades and other events take place in England throughout May. If you're keen to go along some of the more traditional happenings

The Puritans frowned on May Day, so the day has never been celebrated with as much enthusiasm in the United States as in Great Britain.
In Hawaii the May Day is celebrated with the tradition of Lei. A festival of the natives of Hawaii, nurtured since time immemorial, Lei was officially celebrated first in 1929. Lei Day is celebrated in Hawaii instead of May Day. Schools throughout the islands crown their own kings and queens and create courts in celebration, and to honor the people and customs of Hawaii.







129_Queenship_1.jpg - 66035 Bytes

The Most Holy Virgin Mary crowned Queen of Heaven
El Lucero de la Grada, Monastery of Carmel, Cuenca de los Andes, Ecuador

Each day of May there is a special flower dedicated to Our Lady which corresponds with a particular virtue. When you offer to Mary each day of May the acts of the designated virtue, you will have presented her with a most beautiful spiritual bouquet of flowers by her glorious feast on May 31st of the Queenship of Mary. On May 1st, the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, Mary's earthly spouse was the LILY and the designated virtue: PURITY. No flower is more significant in identifying the Foster Father of Jesus and chaste Protector of Mary than the holy Joseph who is the symbol of purity, and that symbolic flower is the white, pure Lily.


The only major polytheistic [pagan]  holiday which has never been Christianized

On May 1st in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, after a long, bloody, and desperate battle. The last emperor of the Eastern Roman empire died in battle, his body found under a huge pile at the wall. The days of pillage, rapine, and plunder which followed destroyed the last surviving libraries of the ancient world would also lead to a rebirth. The scholars found new patrons among the trading Italian families in Venice and Florence. The translation of the ancient books by the old Greco-Roman authors would fuel the philosophy behind the Italian Renaissance. One of humankind's greater creative flowerings. 
"You start in April and cross to the time of May
One has you as it leaves, one as it comes
Since the edges of these months are yours and defer
To you, either of them suits your praises.
The Circus continues and the theatre's lauded palm,
Let this song, too, join the Circus spectacle."

Ovid, Fasti (V.185-190)

Augustine criticized the celebration of Flora, questioning why it should be
 "more satisfactory to irritate the gods by temperance, than to pacify them by debauchery; and to provoke their hate by honest living, than soothe it by such unseemly debauchery"
(De Civitate Die, II.27).
encyclopaedia_romana/ calendar/floralia.html
"use life's beauty as it blooms"
(Fasti, V.353).

Workers' Day

May Day is designated International Workers' Day. It is indeed an international holiday in many countries, but not the USA and UK. The adoption of May Day by socialists and  also the communists as their primary holiday cements official resistance to this holiday in the US. In a separate attempt to co-opt May Day, the Roman Catholic Church added another Saint Joseph's Day in 1955 that Christianized 1 May as the day of "Saint Joseph, the Worker".
In the U.S., Mayday is generally considered a popular celebration of the labor movement and associated popular struggles.  In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, successfully demanded an eight-hour workday in the United States, to come in effect as of May 1, 1886.
 "On May 1st, come to the Euromayday Parades an/dd take part in the actions on the streets of Europe.

We are acting to become the protagonists of our own lives.

Precarious of the world let's conspire and strike
for a free, open, radical europe!
Mayday on indymedia = Over 1,700,000 google links

Mayday is also the anarchist day of remembrance and rage. The Mayday Tribe’s first and last action would occur on May 3rd, 1971 to protest the Vietnam War.

The Tribe’s plan was to “shut down the Government" over 10,000 would be arrested. It would be the largest mass arrest in U.S. history.
by Berta Joubert-Ceci
Workers World
In Cuba, according to Prensa Latina, 1.3 million people gathered in historic Revolution Square. Presided over by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, the gathering was also attended by many union representatives from around the world who had been part of the Fourth Hemispheric Conference against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, held recently in Havana. A total of 60 percent of Cuba’s population attended simultaneous rallies held throughout the island.
In Brazil, where the Landless Movement MST had initiated an 11,000-strong march from Pernambuco to Brasilia demanding land reform on May 1, more than 1 million attended a May Day march in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s capital.

In Mexico, where, according to the Electrical, Social Security and Telephone workers’ unions, half of the population survive on less than $7 a day and nine out of 10 peasants do not receive even minimum wage, tens of thousands demonstrated against President Vicente Fox, accusing him of being a "lackey of the United States and the World Bank."

In Ecuador, where the masses last month forced out President Lucio Gutiérrez, leaving his vice president, Alfredo Palacio, in charge, 10,000 workers demonstrated, chanting "Palacio out, Congress out, everybody out." They also carried giant banners against the Free Trade agreement.

Demonstrations were held in almost every country of South and Central America and the Caribbean, including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua-where protests have been held recently against the neoliberal government of Enrique Bolaños-and Puerto Rico. The progressive sector of the unions in this island colony of Washington joined in solidarity with organizations waging a struggle against the privatization of beaches by U.S. corporations.


On May Day the Flamen Volcanis offered a sacrifice to Maia; the women-only festival to the Bona Dea  was held; and the Lares praestites (spirits of the dead who guarded Rome) were honored. Next came the festival for the wandering spirits of the dead, known as Lemures. The festival for the Lemures was held on the 9, 11, and 13 of May, but not on the unlucky even days. The festival was part of a public cult to propitiate the spirits of the dead so they wouldn't threaten the living.

In the Roman pantheon, each of the Pleiades is associated with its own goddess (the Seven Sisters) May is for Maia Majesta, the "Great Mother." and the Roman goddess of spring,  Traditional May Day celebrations were pre-Christian agricultural festivals. Eventually the significance was lost and the practices survived merely as popular festivities. It is a festival of happiness, joy and the coming of summer.


May Day

May day is the only major festival of pre-Christian Europe that was not adapted by the Christian church for its own purposes. Part of a yearly cycle that includes midwinter and harvest celebrations, it stands midway between the long, cold nights of winter and the days of plenty at summers end, with symbolism and ceremony that reflects its pivotal position.


Across Europe the key symbol of the day is fresh spring growth, and the general hope is for fecundity. Traditionally, youths spent the eve of May Day in neighbouring woods and awoke the villagers the next morning by visiting each house, singing a traditional carol and bearing garlands of fresh leaves and flowers

The date was also reckoned as occurring on the first full moon in the sign of Taurus, halfway between the Spring Solstice and Midsummer Equinox, or after the blooming of the hawthorn tree, the tree sacred to the Goddess/Queen of the May in spring.

In the Roman pantheon, each of the Pleiades is associated with its own goddess (the Seven Sisters), and she who lends her name to May is Maia Majesta, the "Great Mother."  mother to Hermes (Mercury). 
 Other festivals of the month include honor paid to Vulcan, Maia, and the mother of the Lares.

May Pole & May Day through history


The maypole is a tall wooden pole (traditionally of hawthorn or birch), with several long colored ribbons suspended from the top. The top of the Maypole is often festooned with flowers and greenery.

It appeared in most Germanic countries, and is especially popular in Germany and Austria for the May festivities, as well as in Sweden during the Midsummer festivities. In the United Kingdom it plays a key role in many May Day and Beltane festivities and rites. It also remains popular in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and coastal regions of Finland, including the Åland islands and the archipelago.

The Maypole as a simple pole is several centuries old in the United Kingdom, but the addition of ribbons is an invention of John Ruskin in the 19th century. Pairs of boys and girls (or men and women) stand alternately around the base of the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. They weave in and around each other, boys going one way and girls going the other and the ribbons are woven together around the pole until the merry-makers meet at the base.

New France Habitants Celebrating Around a Maypole NAC/ANC; C.W. Jefferys From Twice-Told Tales, 1836, 1837
By Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864


"The Maypole of Merrymount" recounts a most interesting encounter between the Puritans and the forces of anarchy and hedonism.

As Morton himself wrote in The New England Canaan (Book III, Chapter 14): "The Inhabitants of . . . Mare Mount . . . did devise amongst themselves . . . Revels and merriment after the old English custome; (they) prepared to sett up a Maypole upon the festivall day . . . and therefore brewed a barrell of excellent beare . . . to be spent, with other good cheare, for all commers of that day. And . . . they had prepared a song fitting to the time and present occasion. And upon May day they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drumes, gunnes, pistols and other fitting instruments, for the purpose; and there erected it with the help of Salvages, that came thether to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot longe was reared up, with a peare of buckshorns nayled one somewhat neare unto the top of it: where it stood, as a faire sea mark for directions how to finde out the way to mine Hoste of Mare Mount.


Maypole dance for a folk dancing view 

Mount Wollaston for a maypole celebration gone very wrong indeed


Saturnalia | this merry Roman festival dedicated to the Roman god Saturn involved feasts and gift giving. Saturnalia (from the god Saturn) was the name the Romans gave to their holiday marking the Winter Solstice. Over the years, it expanded to a whole week, the 17 December to 23 December. All people were considered equal during these celebrations, slave and free, rich and poor, one with another. Men dressed in hides of animals, women’s clothes, and masks, enacting ritual plays. It also degenerated in some locales, from mask playing and role reversal to debauchery, so that among Christians the word "saturnalia" came to mean "orgy".

It was traditional for Romans to exchange gifts during this holiday. These gifts were customarily made of silver, although nearly anything could be given as a gift for the occasion.
Several epigrams by the poet Martial survive, seemingly crafted as riddling gift-tags for gifts of food.

The customary greeting for the occasion is "Io, Saturnalia!" — io (pronounced "yo") being a Latin interjection related to "ho" (as in "Ho, praise to Saturn").

  • wiki/Saturnalia 
  • Macrobius: Saturnalia (Latin)

    Mark Ungar, San Francisco

    I assume, when I say "Merry Christmas," that whomever I direct the greeting to will understand that what I actually mean is: "Have a happy year-end period, regardless of which ancient tradition of marking the winter solstice you have inherited from your ancestral culture, and enjoy your chosen rituals of togetherness and renewal in which our similarities -- not our differences -- are celebrated. I am not a Christian, nor do I assume you are one, nor do I hope to convert you to Christianity -- but I still wish you a happy year-end period and confer such blessings upon you as a compassionate heart can offer."




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