May Day

Many of you may have celebrated the 1st of May or May Day in school, by making little baskets that you filled with flowers or candy and hung on neighbor’s doors, then rang the doorbell and left (I know, some of you put other things on front porches, rang the doorbell and left, but that is best left for a future story).

Perhaps you even celebrated May Day by dancing around a Maypole holding ribbons which intertwined as you danced. Interestingly enough, some women’s colleges on the east coast of the United States still do this every year.

The celebration of May Day has an ancient origin starting with Floralia, the Festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, around the 1st of May In the second century A.D. Ovid wrote that hares and goats were released as part of the festivities. Persius added that crowds were pelted with vetches, beans and lupins.

May Day is still widely celebrated in Europe. In the United States, May Day was first celebrated by early European settlers and is still celebrated in some areas with parades, dances or festivals. In 1927, May Day became Lei Day in Hawaii, as a day to celebrate island culture in general, and the culture of native Hawaiians in particular.

The public schools in Pasadena, California, where I grew up, apparently stopped celebrating May Day in the late 1940’s. This was partly due to the fact it had become the day for communist countries, especially the USSR, to “ rattle their swords” with a large exhibition of soldiers, weapons and such.This was actually nothing new since in the late 19th century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago.

You are encouraged to enjoy May Day the best you can, but please no releasing hares or goats indoors and no pelting each other with vetches, beans or lupines.

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