Wicked Wednesday: May Day Traditions

Edith here, still coming down from Malice!

It’s the merry month of May, Wickeds, and we’re going to play on that word every Wednesday until June. In some places people dance around the May pole on May 1st. In other countries they hold parades to honor workers.


What are your May Day traditions? Do you Morris dance and drink the sun up? Make a basket of flowers? March in solidarity with the workers of the world? Do you love the new month, the real onset of spring in New England, or dread the allergens it brings? Dish!

Sherry: When I was little my sister and I would make flowers out of Kleenex and rubber bands. We’d put them in baskets made out of construction paper. Then we put them on our neighbors’ doorknobs and ran off. Spring normally starts a bit earlier down here in Northern Virginia but it’s been late this year. But it is stunning in our neighborhood right now with so much in bloom. The picture below is from a week ago. It’s in full bloom now.

Julie: On the last day of April I was lamenting leaving my gloves at home, so May has always held a special place in my heart. It is the turning of the season. Here in Boston, where we all run on a school schedule to a certain degree, May also means final exams, commencements, and students leaving the city for the summer. The pace slows down (a bit), the gloves are put away for good, and there is a spring in my step.

Liz: I can’t say I ever acknowledged May Day specifically, but May is so special – I mean, spring! I love the warm weather and May always seems to signify turning the corner from a long, cold winter. Especially this year – seriously, I wore my fleecy pants on April 30! But on May 1, the weather did not disappoint.

Barb: I have vague memories of wearing a wreath of dried flowers around my head and doing a complicated dance around the maypole when I was in grade school. But mostly, the cold war dominated my childhood and the Russians had claimed May Day as their own with big military parades. The Russians were our enemies back in those olden days, (hey, wait a minute…), so that put a damper on celebrations here.

Edith: As children we also made baskets of flowers on May Day, but I don’t recall what we did with them. One memorable May Day in graduate school (1980, perhaps?) I showed up with the Morris dancers and started celebrating by drinking the sun up. I loved the the men dancing with bells on their ankles, the spirit of bringing back the fecundity of spring, but I don’t remember the rest of the day! I must have slept it off.

Jessie: I was a May pole dancer in the first grade but other than that I haven’t really celebrated the day in a traditional way. I love the month for its green grass, daffodil blossoms and hopping robins in the yard!

Readers: What you do on May Day? Did you have a tradition with it when you were younger?

17 Thoughts

  1. What I remember most is that only the trees were actually in bloom, so leaving baskets of flowers was a nonstarter. I wonder now where such a “tradition” could have started from as dandelions would seem to be the only resource available to many children (assuming the weather cooperated).

  2. May Day was as big as Halloween for candy. We would make baskets from left over wallpaper books, fill them with candy, and leave them at our friends houses. It was a lot of fun!

  3. From fourth through eighth grade, our music class always had a Maypole and we gave all of the teachers May Day baskets we made. It sounds weird that as a music class we did this. We had a music teacher that also taught us the history of music and it’s culture. We also learn about Morris dancing and the Mayday traditions fit right in.

  4. When I attended a Quaker school in Pennsylvania (kindergarten through third grade), the seniors had a Maypole each year, and first graders served as their attendants (don’t ask me why–I just did what I was told). We had to wear white dresses. My mother was a bit ticked off when I was tapped to do it a second year, which meant buying another white dress. Neither dress was ever worn again. But we did learn to dance around the Maypole, weaving the streamers together as we went.

  5. I never had any specific traditions. In Buffalo, May meant we could finally start thinking about putting away the winter jacket and gloves. Down in Pittsburgh, it usually warms up earlier in April, but this year has been slow. Yesterday was gorgeous though – spring at last!

  6. I don’t remember doing anything special for May Day as a kid except the year the school had a religious May Day procession. Our daugter’s small school had an old fashioned Maypole and the kids learned the traditional dance. It was a lot of fun to watch and our daughter really enjoyed being a part of it. Now, I just thoroughly enjoy the warmer weather and all the flowers that bloom in Lancaster, PA!

    1. Interesting, Ginny. I always think of the day as vaguely pagan. What religion, and is there a particular May 1 church holiday?

      1. It was in another lifetime, but the religion I was brought up in is Catholic. May is the month of Mary. The first day of May was (and maybe still is) celebrated with processions, flower wreaths for the hair, etc. Mary, Queen of the May, would be crowned with flowers and wreaths bestowed upon her.

  7. On May Day, I turn my calendars over to May. Assuming I remember, that is. 🙂

    Seriously, not May Day traditions now or from when I was a child. Having worked at a college for so long, it does mean graduation (usually Mother’s Day weekend), and the start of a very empty campus with no students and few professors around. But even that is slowly fading from my mind as I haven’t worked there for several years and have no student roommates any more.

    I does mean the end of the traditional TV season, however. Got tons of cliffhangers coming up in the next couple of months.

      1. Funny how the school calendar governs us even when we haven’t been in (or at) school for years. I always have the urge to get a new lunchbox in the fall!

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