May Day as been celebrated for thousands of years, historically we Celts in Britain believed May 1st to be the most important day of the year, when the festival of Beltane was held. This festival was thought to divide the year between the light and the dark. Symbolic fire was one of the main rituals of the festival, helping to celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world. When the Romans invaded and settled in Britain, they brought with them their five-day celebration known as Floralia, devoted to the worship of the goddess of flowers. This took place between April 20th and May 2nd, the rituals of this celebration were eventually combined with Beltane.
Over time there have been many different events and festivities worldwide, most with the express purpose of welcoming in a change of season from Winter to Spring. In the 19th century, a new meaning was added, ‘International Workers’ Day.
The best known May Day tradition, is dancing around the maypole and crowning the Queen of May; unfortunately this year these celebrations have been cancellated due to the pandemic, but the spirit of May day dances on – Happy May Day!
Here is a poem by James Henry Leigh Hunt: