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Archive for May 1st, 2011

The first day of the month of May is known as May Day. It is the time of year when warmer weather begins and flowers and trees start to blossom. It is said to be a time of love and romance. It is when people celebrate the coming of summer with lots of different customs that are expressions of joy and hope after a long winter.

Traditional English May Day celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing around a Maypole.

The beginning of Summer

Although summer does not officially begin until June, May Day marks its beginning. May Day celebrations have been carried out in England for over 2000 years.

The Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. It was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd.

How was May Day Celebrated in the past?

It was custom for every one to go a-Maying early on May Day. Herrick, a 17th century English poet wrote:

There’s not a budding boy, or girl, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.

Decorating Houses

May Day began early in the morning. People would go out before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages with in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune.

Washing in the early morning dew

Girls would make a special point of washing their faces in the dew of the early morning. They believed this made them very beautiful for the following year. copyright of protectbritain.com

May Queen

May Queen
The rest of the day was given over to various festivities. There was dancing on the village green, archery contest and exhibitions of strength. The highlight of the day was the crowning of the May Queen, the human replica of Flora. By tradition she took no part in the games or dancing, but sat like a queen in a flower-decked chair to watch her ‘subjects’.

May Day Garlands

Young girls would make May Garlands. They covered two hoops, one at right angles inside the other, with leaves and flowers, and sometimes they put a doll inside to represent the goddess of Spring.

In some parts of Britain, May 1st is called Garland Day.

The first of May is Garland Day
So please remember the garland.
We don’t come here but once a year,
So please remember the garland.

May Day Lifting

There was once a tradition in England of ‘lifting’ where a gang of young men would lift a pretty girl in a flower bedecked chair on May day. Then the girl would choose a boy on May 2nd.

May Day Tricks

In the North of England, the first of May was a kind of late ‘April Fooling’ when all sorts of pranks would take place and ‘May Gosling’ was the shout if you managed to trick someone. The response would be:

‘May Goslings past and gone. You’re the fool for making me one!’

Recommended Events in Wiltshire this May Day: 
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/robin-hood-ow-1-Jan/
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/time-travellers-go-medieval-os-30-Jan/
http://www.wherecanwego.com/whatsonengland/Wiltshire/events.aspx

Enjoy Wiltshire!
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