May Day was once, in its earliest days of glory, quite a celebrated date. It was marked by plenty of dancing, singing, and merriment.
This unofficial holiday was never and is still not really considered a holiday by most people in the United States. In fact, it is often overlooked completely. The reason for this is quite possibly the fact that it was not recognized by the Christian church in the earlier days. Some places, though, do hold annual parades and plan festive events to celebrate the end of the winter season as well as the beginning of spring. The city of Minneapolis held their first May Day parade in the year of 1975. Part of the parade is said to be life-size puppets. The gala event is said to draw thousands of people every year.
It is quite possible that May Day began a long time ago with the Druids and their custom of worshipping trees. But, the original May Day is thought to have started as part of the spring rituals which were celebrated in Europe before the Christians came to power. When the Christians abolished or changed the pagan holidays for their own use, May Day was completely left out. Since it was a celebration of spring as well as fertility rites, the Christians decided that they wanted no part of the illicit sexual activities which were commonly promoted.
This holiday was often symbolized by the colorful new growth of spring. It was an early tradition for the youngsters of Europe to carry fresh flowers and boughs and to visit neighborhood houses. They would sing songs that commemorated the arrival of springtime too. People typically decorated their homes with fresh flowers, green leaves, and tree branches. And, May Poles were a common sight on this holiday. Some considered the poles to represent the "tree of life."
They were erected in the town squares in order to mark the presence of spring as well as the coming of summer when all of the trees, flowers, and crops would be growing heartily in the light of the golden sunshine. The May Poles were usually trees that had been cut down in the forests. The branches were removed, and the trees were then carried into town. Brightly colored ribbons were then attached to the tops of the trees. The youngsters took turns grabbing a ribbon and dancing around the poles as part of their May Day celebration. Some cultures believed that the winding of the ribbons around the May Poles was an attempt at helping Nature remain in balance after the long, cold winter, and continue its plush green growth cycle. The youngsters would wind the ribbons together in a colorful pattern. The youngsters also held an annual election in which they selected a May Day King and Queen who were then supposed to preside over the day's events.
Happy May Day!