Fun Facts about May Day

April showers bring May flowers

 Beautiful photograph © Jessica Nichols and available for purchase here.


Happy May 1st, aka May Day!

You might not know it, but May Day is a pretty big deal in some parts of the world.

May Day marks the midpoint between spring and summer, occurring exactly half a year from November 1st.

The origins of May Day go back thousands of years to the Celtic period, where towns and villages would come together to celebrate springtime fertility, and rejoice in the beauty of spring and optimism of life. The energy of these gatherings were supposed to help inspire procreation.

Couples could often be found disappearing into the fields, for rumors said that making love in them would enhance the fertility of the growing crops.

There are also rumors that this was the last chance for fairies to travel to the earth.

Native Americans called May the month of the flower moon, believing that flowers would dance under the full moon.

Ancient Romans dedicated May Day to the Flora, the goddess of flowers.

May Day started out as a pagan celebration, but as Europe became more and more Christianized, the celebrations became more secular.

Though May Day celebrations are not very popular in the United States, they are still wildly celebrated throughout many parts of Europe.

(and from what I’ve been reading, some of these celebrations can get pretty crazy!)

Today, May Day is probably best known for the tradition of “dancing the maypole dance” and crowning the Queen of the May.

The maypole was a symbol or fertility, but it was also symbolic of the “world tree,” which was supposed to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.


People would cover the maypole in bright ribbons and dance around the tree. The maypole was representative of the male, with the ribbons representing the female.

A tradition that is not quite as popular is the giving of May Baskets, where people would fill baskets full of beautiful flowers and sweets, and then leave them anonymously on doorsteps.

How wonderful would it be to wake up and find a beautiful basket of flowers and treats waiting for you?

I would be thrilled!

As someone that loves flowers and spring and frolicking in the sun, I’m surprised that it’s taken me so long to learn about this lovely holiday.

Unfortunately for me, in San Francisco, today’s “May Day” couldn’t be farther from the celebrations described above, as May Day is being used as a day for protesting.

Despite this, I still think it’s a great way to celebrate life and spring and fertility, and I’d like to create some of my own May Day traditions for upcoming years.

Have you ever celebrated May Day?

P.S. Most of what I learned about May Day came from here and here.

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RachelMay 2, 2012 - 11:52 am

I love May Day! Our tradition as kids was to go leave flowers on our friends and families’ doorsteps, ring the doorbell and then run away before they came. We thought we were so sneaky!

Barb CarranzaMay 1, 2013 - 5:55 am

We have kept the May Baskets tradition alive in our family! I don’t throw it around that much, but in Kindergarten; I was Queen of the May and we had a Maypole and EVERYTHING. ; )

My children are 10 and 13 and know all about celebrating on May Day. It is simple to do and people appreciate their surprise baskets a lot.

Thanks for the info you provided!

Happy May Day! | SpillerenaMay 1, 2013 - 9:37 am

[…] you that today is May Day? If this means nothing to you, then go check out the post I wrote about it last year. Go on. Click over. I’ll […]

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