Unless you are a radical Marxist, most people equate May Day with maypole and morris dancing, flowers, greenery and the coming of summer. These things are indeed evocative of May Day, but are only part of what was once a major festival not just in Britain, but world wide and thankfully, is still practiced in some form or other to this day.
What many people tend to forget, these celebrations were an important part of the rural calendar which served to ensure at least a modicum of prosperity for our agrarian forebears.
May is the month when the slowly returning life brought by the Green Man, really bursts into glory with hedges drenched in white May blobs and pastures lush with rich grasses, all of which provide shelter and food for the new animal and bird life coming into the world. That’s the theory anyway! This year May has out stripped spring by about three weeks, but I digress.
As the land prospers and the days become warmer, in-wintered livestock is returned to the fields for summer grazing. This “turn out” time is an age old process still practiced by modern day farmers, although they no longer light bonfires and drive their cattle through the smoke!
Last year we turned our cattle out on the 2nd May, but this year it will be another couple of weeks before they return to their pasture due to the long, cold winter and current lack of rain.
Maypole and morris dancing and the crowning of the May Queen are the remnants of this once great festival which our forebears called Beltain and long may they continue!
A couple of years ago, we celebrated May Day with Packington Morris Men who danced up the sun at Breedon Hill and then crowned the May Queen at the Bull & Lion pub, Packington.
This year were holding our own revels complete with maypole and morris dancing, BBQ and lots more singing and music.