Well, May Day is actually an ancient rite of spring that has been celebrated since the very early times of the Roman Empire. And every culture seems to have its own version.
In modern times, we have taken away all the jumping through fire and the worship of Aphrodite and Dionysis and made it a very generic celebration of spring and rebirth and renewal.
Many people set up May Poles and dance in celebration of the season. Some make flower crowns and wear them to commemorate the day. Many of us just pass the time without notice.
In ancient times, Spring – the growing season – determined how much food would be available during the coming year. It literally was the difference between life and death. If the seeds did not germinate and grow, if the weather did not cooperate, if disease or insects ruined the crops, starvation would ensue. So gathering to envoke the gods’ blessings, to offer sacrifices, or simply to celebrate the end of winter and a better time was a common practice. Often it was required.
These days, most of us give little or no thought to where our food comes from. As long as the grocery shelves are well stocked, we think little of it. We see no need to participate in rituals that ensure our continued good luck. However, some of us like to grow our own food. And for serious gardeners, we each have our own little rituals that we perform each year to ensure we will have good crops. Though we might not want to admit it. (Think, favorite trowel, specific seed company, or certain planting dates. Nothing else will do!)
This year, just for fun, some friends and I actually had a May Day celebration. We set up a May Pole and decorated it, though none of us actually danced around it. We made flower crowns and decorated our hats with fresh flowers, reminiscent of earlier times. Then we had a picnic on the grounds.
And it was a true celebration of spring. It was also a celebration of friendship. For me, some of those people have been my friends for a long time, some for only a couple of years and some are brand new. I celebrate my new friends, as well as those who have known me for so long. Friends are incredibly important to our lives. They nourish our souls as the food guaranteed by those ancient rites of spring nourish our bodies.
Happy May Day! How will you celebrate?