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Amelia Islander

What exactly is May Day?

Apr 29, 2019 02:00AM
May Day is May 1, a good day to celebrate the end of winter and the wondrous warm weather ahead. The ancient Celts called it “Beltane”—the day halfway between spring and summer that coincides with the return of fertility to the earth.

Young people would wake on Beltane morning knowing that they could be paired with a mate by sundown! If their courtship continued, the wedding would occur six weeks later, on June’s Midsummer’s Day.

These same young people likely participated in the fertility rites of Beltane by dancing around a living tree to celebrate the fecundity of their community along with the livestock and crops they relied on. This tree later became the familiar May Day Maypole that children delight in now.

Occasionally, over the centuries, the Maypole was banned because of its pagan origins and the bawdy revelry that it sometimes inspired. But it kept reappearing and, over time, the spring dances and festivals associated with it became more accepted, and even anticipated.