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What does May Day celebrate?
Source: Library of Congress
May Day is a festival that celebrates the arrival of Spring.
When is May Day celebrated?
Who celebrates this day?
This day is celebrated throughout the world. In many countries it is a major holiday such as the United Kingdom, India, Romania, Sweden, and Norway. In many countries the day is celebrated as Labor Day.
What do people do to celebrate?
Celebrations differ around the world. There are many traditions for day. Here are a few:
History of May Day
- England - May Day has a long history and tradition in England. The day is celebrated with music and dancing. Perhaps the most famous part of the celebration is the Maypole. Children dance around the Maypole holding onto colorful ribbons. Many people use flowers and leaves to make hoops and hair garlands as well. A lot of towns also crown a May Queen on this day.
- Walpurgis Night - Some countries celebrate the night before May Day called Walpurgis Night. These countries include Germany, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic. The celebration is named after English missionary Saint Walpurga. People celebrate with large bonfires and dancing.
- Scotland and Ireland - Long ago in the Middle Ages the Gaelic people of Scotland and Ireland celebrated the festival of Beltane. Beltane means "Day of Fire". They had large bonfires and dancing at night to celebrate. Some people are starting to celebrate Beltane again.
May Day has changed throughout history. In Greek and Roman times it was a day to celebrate spring and specifically the goddesses over spring. In early Gaelic times as well as in pre-Christian times in Scandinavia, May Day was also a day to celebrate the coming of Spring. When Christianity came to Europe and England, May Day became intertwined with Easter and other Christian celebrations.
In the 1900s May Day became a day to celebrate labor in many communist and socialist countries. They would celebrate the worker as well as the armed forces on this day. Later the day would become a Labor Day in many countries throughout the world.
Fun Facts About May Day
- In Ancient Greece they celebrated the Festival of Chloris. She was the goddess of flowers and spring. The Ancient Romans had a similar festival in honor of the goddess Flora.
- Morris Dancers in England wear hats decorated with flowers, suspenders, and ankle bells. They stomp their feet, wave handkerchiefs, and bang sticks together when they dance.
- One traditional May Day dance in England is called the Cumberland Square.
- A Maypole stands all year long in Inkwell, England. It has been there since 1894.
- Maypoles were sometimes made from old ship's masts.
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