Johnston: Ways to celebrate May Day

“Here shall we keep the holiday

And duly greet the entering May?

Too strait and low our cottage doors

And all unmeet our carpet floors …

Wreaths for the May! For happy Spring

To-day shall all her dowry bring”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, May Day

May 1 is May Day, did you know?

I had always heard of May Day and the maypole, but never knew what it was celebrating.

So here are a few fun facts about May Day and a few how how-to’s for crafts you can make to celebrate May Day.

According to history.com, the early Celts of the British Isles celebrated May 1 as the beginning of the spring season.

It marked the halfway point on their calendar and began the season of light and growth.

It is unclear when the maypole first originated as part of this celebration, but we can trace it back to medieval times.

The maypole was a symbol of fertility.

People of the villages found large trees that would serve as the maypole and set it up for the day.

The festivities involved people dancing around the maypole with colorful streamers and ribbons.

They would wind the streamers around the pole by dancing in one direction, then unwind them by dancing in the opposite direction.

There were even some villages that erected permanent maypoles just for this holiday.

It would be out of place to find a maypole here in the United States though.

That tradition did not come over with our British ancestors.

The Puritans discouraged those types of May Day celebrations.

Here in the U.S., the traditions evolved into May Day Baskets that were created to celebrate spring.

These baskets were filled with flowers, candies and treats and then hung on the doors of friends and neighbors.

It is always sweet to find treats from your neighbors.

It is feeling more and more like spring as we welcome May, so celebrate May Day in your way with a craft or recipe like the ones included here.

As always, contact the Clark County Extension office for more May Day recipes and crafts.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or at shonda.johnston@uky.edu.