What could be more quintessentially and quirkily English than our traditional May Day celebrations on May the 1st? Chocolate box villages with the friendly gathering of the community and a maypole adorned with vibrant stream-ing ribbons in the centre of the green.
Well it may surprise you to learn that the earliest May Day celebrations appeared with the Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. The celebration is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane, and was a traditional summer holiday in many European pagan cultures.
Europe became Christianised and the pagan holidays lost their religious character. May Day changed into a popular secular celebration. The secular versions of May Day, observed in Europe and North America, are be best known for their traditions of dancing around the maypole and crowning the Queen of May. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of “May baskets,” small baskets of sweets or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbours’ doorsteps.Did you know that different maypole dances result in different ribbon weave patterns around the maypole?
The Barber’s Pole
This produces a lovely twisted stripe pattern in one direction around the pole.
The Spider’s Web
Not all maypole patterns are tight to the pole, the spider’s web forms a tented ribbon canopy reminiscent of a spider’s web.
This is the most complex maypole dance and involves dancers moving in both directions weaving in and out between each other. It creates a beautiful braided rope like pattern around the pole.