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Facts About May Day History and Maypole Dancing for Kids and Adults

Here we have a photo dated back in the seventeenth century of people celebrating by holding a May festival including the traditional May Pole.

Here we have a photo dated back in the seventeenth century of people celebrating by holding a May festival including the traditional May Pole.

Happy May Day

The May Day holiday, held on May 1st annually, is not celebrated much in the United States. This ancient holiday, dating back before Christ was born, originally was the Celtic festival of Beltane celebrated by the Druids in the British Isles. The festival marks the middle point of the year. The Druid calender begins on November 1st which is also All Saint's Day. It is also known as Samhain, the pagan harvest celebration.

The Romans celebrated May Day in honor of their goddess of flowers, Flora. May Day is a day for children to play games outside while enjoying the warmer weather and fresh air. Its also a time to celebrate the coming of the summer season!

The Maypole and Other Festivities

May Day is emphasized by using beautiful spring flowers. The villagers used to erect a pole (usually a birch tree trunk), decorate it with flowers and ribbons, and the children would sing and dance around the pole on May 1st, May Day. In many cases, they were accompanied by a piper. Each child would hold a bright, beautifully colored ribbon and dance around the pole holding on to their personal ribbon. This action created a beautiful pattern on the maypole that was made by a team of children dancing together.

The English, well known, Morris Dance takes place on May Day as well. In England, this dance represented six deer (men wearing animal antlers), a Maid Marion, and a fool. It was a lyrical dance telling a story of life and death.

Each year a May Queen is elected to ride in the parades on a floral decorated throne. She reigns over the May Day festivities. The children would sing and dance around the May Queen as much as they would the Maypole.

According to,” May Day is a name for various holidays celebrated on May 1. The holiday is most often associated with the commemoration of the social and economic achievements of the labor movement. The May 1st date is used because in 1884 the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions demanded an eight-hour workday, to come in effect as of May 1, 1886. This resulted in the general strike and the Haymarket Riot of 1886, but eventually also in the official sanction of the eight-hour workday.”

I wondered if this is why the term, “mayday” was coined as a term for help. To spite it would have made a good story, I will tell you the truth. This is not the origin for the term, “mayday.” Please see the following link:

Participating Countries and Cultures

May Day originated in the ancient northern hemisphere. The most common celebrations have been held for centuries in the following countries:

  • Great Britain
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Germany
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Hawaii, USA (May Day is known as Lei Day in Hawaii)

So dress up in bright, spring colors, and enjoy the beautiful spring weather! Dance around the Maypole. Sing with your friends. Notice the beauty in your life and be grateful.

Thank you for your interest in my writing. I hope you were entertained, and will read more of my work. As always, please feel free to leave a comment.

"Be kind to one another" ~ Ellen

God Bless You ~ Margaret Sullivan

Countries That Celebrate May Day

Other Sources:

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Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 05, 2012:

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I learned about the holiday when I was a little girl in South Florida, but we never celebrated it. I always thought it sounded like a fun holiday, geared towards kids.

Thanks so much for your input!

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on May 05, 2012:

I know a couple of villages where there are Maypoles but I've never been there at the right time to see them in use. I didn't realise that mayday wasn't much celebrated in the USA.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 04, 2012:

I'm glad I could help you celebrate, Amy :)

Amy Gillie from Indiana on May 04, 2012:

This is a great history of the holiday and its activities. I got married on May Day (outside even!), and I love the idea of dancing around with flowers and ribbons.

summerberrie on May 03, 2012:

I love the Maypole dance. We did them as kids in P.E. class. Nice information.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 03, 2012:

I think it sounds like a good time! :)

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 03, 2012:

Awww - I love it! When I was a kid and I read about the May Day festival, I used to wish we had a May Pole tradition somewhere nearby. I did used to take little bouquets of flowers and put them on neighbors' doorsteps, though. I have a feeling they didn't know where they came from or why they were there.

Austin had a (typically weird) event every May 1st for ages: Eeyore's Birthday Party. At first, it was mostly fun, but in later years it was more a gathering of drunk hippies than anything else. I'm not even sure it's still going on now.

Thanks for the fun peek into a tradition that, sadly, isn't as common these days!

Lisa McKnight from London on May 03, 2012:

Hmm I have always wondered about the men wearing antlers. The weirdest thing in England is when you are in a pub and the Morris group come in and start doing their play. Weird.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 01, 2012:

Thank you, teaches! This one was fun ;)

Dianna Mendez on May 01, 2012:

Thanks for the history on this holiday. I think you are right on the "mayday" call for help based upon the facts you mentioned.

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