May Day here in northeastern Ohio means that it’s finally beginning to look like Spring! And even though it’s still chilly and rainy today, we’ve had a few warm days here and there and the leaves are budding out. After a winter like we’ve had, and many across the county have had this year, I do believe it’s time for a real celebration!
May Day is a lovely ritual that dates back to ancient Celtic traditions which fused with Roman and Greek rituals honoring the goddess of spring. The rituals include dancing around a maypole while singing songs, making flower crowns, and eating May Day cake.
I encourage you to gather with some friends or your own family later this week or weekend to celebrate this halfway point between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Here are some ideas:
- You can make your own maypole from a very large dowel (ours is over 6 feet) purchased from a home supply store, and attach ribbons to the top of the pole. To set it up, you can use a bucket of rocks or a Christmas tree stand.
- If you have more than one adult or some teens around, one of you could play “Here’s a Branch of Snowy May” on the recorder while the other sings! (Check out a recording to learn this May Day song here: Wishing You a Delightful May Day!)
- Making ankle bells is a sweet added touch. They jingle when you dance!
- For younger children, very simple patterns of dancing and skipping around the pole are best. Very young children can hold an adult’s hand while everyone walks in one direction wrapping the ribbons, or try the over under pattern.
- Layer cakes are beautiful decorated with icing and a small mini-pole made with a little dowel and small ribbons. Add some edible flowers and you have a piece of art! If you don’t have a chance to create a large maypole, a simple cake with a may pole decoration could be the perfect celebration!
- Make paper cones, fill them with flowers, and deliver them to friends and neighbors in secret.
My favorite resources for celebrating May Day include two books: Festivals, Family and Food (by Carey & Large) and All Year Round (by Druitt, Fynes-Clinton and Rowling). Both books have printed music for some songs and other decoration ideas. The pattern for the paper maypole cutout pictured above is from All Year Round. Another great resource is Martha Stewart’s website with instructions for making a maypole and dancing around it.
May Day Song
Here’s a branch of snowy May, a branch the fairies gave me.
Who would like to dance today with a branch the fairies gave me. Dance away, dance away, holding high the branch of May.
Happy May Day to you!
Looking for ideas for starting a playgroup or celebrating festivals with friends? Check out my guidebook, Building Community: Playgroups, Co-Ops, and Festivals.