May Day – the traditional celebration of the coming of Summer, has for most of us brought with it a day of glorious sunshine. For those yet to see their first taster of Summer, we hope lashings of sunniness will be with you soon! One thing is for certain, May Day sees the coldest April in 24 years finally come to an end!
For over 2,000 years we have been celebrating May Day with customs ranging from May Pole dancing, crowning of May Queens, and druids gathering at ancient monuments.
Oxford residents wake to the sound of Hymnus Eucharisticus being sung from Magdalen College tower, a tradition which dates back to the 17th Century. Morris dancers have danced the sun up all over the country, which is just as well because tradition states that if Morris men do not complete this ritual then the summer won’t come. And that wouldn’t be good at all! The crowning of a May Queen relates back to the Romans celebrating Flora, the goddess of fruit and flowers. The May Queen symbolises Flora in the human form.
So what are these ancient customs and rituals all about? Well it used to be a major annual festival, especially in rural areas with celebrations designed to mark the turn from cold fruitless winter, to warm and bountiful summer, bringing good harvests.
May Day has always been an early riser. Households used to get up before dawn to decorate their houses with flowers and greenery in the belief that it would bring good fortune. Girls would wash their faces in the early morning dew, believing it would make them very beautiful.
May Day, and May in general, is significant for us today in no small part due to the two Bank Holidays we get to enjoy this month. The extra days off give us valuable extra playing time to spend with friends, family and the new found sunshine.
Why not try making your own origami paper boats for an upgraded game of Pooh Sticks, or organise a nature treasure hunt to see what the new season is bringing in?
Whatever you’re doing, let us know, and have a great time doing it!