Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

Once in the merry month of May, I was in London.  

Nearly twenty years ago now, I visited England while I was taking a class to earn credit towards a degree in English.  I treasure the memories of that time and of that trip.  One event stands out in my mind, and I recall it every May Day.

My professor, and a few of my fellow students and I went to Westminster Abbey.  I was so excited just to be there.  As we walked along the path heading toward this magnificent place, a group of young girls dressed in Victorian looking costumes caught my eye.  

Then I saw a Maypole.  

My memory took me back to the days of my own childhood when we learned to dance around a Maypole in elementary school.

I could scarcely believe that I was actually in England,
walking into Westminster Abbey,
where I caught sight of that long practiced tradition 
of dancing 'round the Maypole in London on the first day of May.

Even by the time my children were in school,
I think the old traditions associated with May Day had long since ceased to be practiced in the U.S.

I remembered with great nostalgia those days when we celebrated May Day by making baskets in school for the May flowers that we would gather to place inside the baskets to leave on a neighbor's doorstep.

Somehow, it just seemed right to gather a few posies together,
even if they were only dandelions,
place them in baskets,
sneak up to the neighbor's porch,
ring the doorbell,
and then
leave the flowers before we ran to hide.

I still remember hiding behind the big lilac tree, 
where we probably got the flowers, 
while we waited to catch sight of Mr. White, 
our neighbor two doors up, 
come to the door to answer the ring.
Seeing no one there,
he stooped down
to gather up the bouquet
 to give to his ancient mother.

I hope your May Day is one that was filled with flowers, 
or perhaps you took the chance to kick up your heels a bit.

From my house to your's,
I'm sending you all a "May Basket" of flowers.
It comes with my very best wishes to you and yours.


Linda Reeder said...

Thank you! I am watching the news about all of the demonstrations here in Seattle today, including violence by anarchists. What happened to celebrating the day with flowers? I miss that.
We learned the May Pole dance too, and it was a big event in high school. Sigh.

Jeanie said...

My childhood memories of May Day are so much like yours. I remember both dancing around the Maypole and leaving flowers on people's doorsteps.
I have never been to London in May, but I love London and would have also been thrilled to see the children dancing around the Maypole.

Kay said...

Awww... thank you, Sally! And what a delightful May basket that is!

I can just imagine you watching those adorable little girls celebrating a real English May Day.

We celebrated May Day in Hawaii when I was little too. May Day is called Lei Day here. I just remember the first two lines of the May Day song. "May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. Garlands of flowers everywhere..."

We also had the maypole and the 5th graders got to twine the ribbons around it.

Jackie said...

What a lovely post, Sally.
Thank you for the flowers. Sweet!!
Happy May Day to you!!!

Jon said...

You know mom, May Day has a history of being buried. The traditional may day festivities that included the may pole are pagan, peasant traditions that the Anglo-Christians wanted to get rid of, but later, apparently co-opted. Later when European immigrants to the US chose the day for General strikes for the 8 hour workday the ruling class, as always, chose to react with violence killing striking workers who wanted nothing more than justice. The ruling class used the violence of the May 4th Haymarket rally to scapegoat socialists and anarchists for persecution and ultimately death. To add insult to injury, and in order to play down the significance of the militant workers struggle, the US gov't has cynically labeled May day "Loyalty Day and "Law day" in an attempt to bury these histories. I am glad that it is being celebrated in all off its various forms, including the reclaiming anarchism as a legitimate political philosophy. Anarchists, and anarchist ideas have been at the forefront of some of the most important political movements of the past 100 years.

Beth said...

The bouquet is lovely! Thank you!

I hope you are feeling lots better!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a delightful memory and beautiful pictures, Sally! You've brightened my May Day for sure. Thanks so much!

My Grama's Soul said...

Found you at Kathy's....I totally FORGOT about May Day........thanks for the reminder. It was an important day in my childhood.



Thisisme. said...

Aaaw, thank you so much for those beautiful May flowers, Sally. Quite made my day! It's sad really that so many traditions are dying out, isn't it, especially one as lovely as this, with the little children all dancing round the Maypole. I remember it well from my childhood, and they even did it at the schools when my daughters were young. I often wonder what traditions our grandchildren are going to have to look back on!

Arkansas Patti said...

Ah yes, I do remember the May pole dance in grade school. I suppose that is a thing of the past now.
I love the idea of the annonymous flowers. That tradition should have stayed. What a lovely idea.

laurie said...

thankyou for sharing this beautiful post, the recreation of May day is beautiful as is your May Basket!

DJan said...

Thank you for the May Day basket. If you will accept it, I give YOU a cyber hug!

Nezzy said...

Now in my minds eye this is exactly what May Day should look like!!!

Mama would read me books 'bout children dancin' 'round the May Pole...oh how I've yearned to be a pole dancer...May Pole that is. Heeehehehee!!!

I always took my teacher a huge basket of lilacs on May Day.

Have a fantastically blessed day sweetie!!! :o)

Olga said...

You know, I had forgotten about May Day and its flower basket tradition. You flower basket is lovely, by the way.

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

How delightful, to have experienced May Day in England!!!! You were so lucky, my Dear.

"A fine bunch of water lilies you turned out to be.
I'd like to see anybody make me wash,
if I didn't wanna."


Mage said...

Lei day here too. My mother's mother's birthday also. Just a beautiful gift from you thank you.

Sightings said...

I wish I had something as nice as this to remember, but I don't recall my family or friends celebrating the day at all. We held out for Memorial Day and July 4th. So ... thanks for this nice recollection!

Keicha said...

Just the other day I was feeling nostalgic about the old fashioned May Day tradition of leaving flowers on neighbor's doorsteps. I remember doing that as child. I must have learned about from you.

Terri Tiffany said...

Yes I remember! One year, when I was in third grade, I was asked to be in the May day court. My mom had a dress made for me with a hoop in the bottom and since it was chilly that night, one of the princesses let me wear here beautiful sweater on my shoulders. It was wonderful and one of my best memories of my life:)

Sandi said...

Thanks for the memories, Sally! I was thinking the same thing yesterday, remembering dancing about the "May pole" which was a tetherball pole at my elementary school! We always made paper cone baskets, and also picked lilacs and tulips to put in the basket to give to the neighbors.

I was a little sad yesterday, as I didn't receive a May basket from two former students (as I have every year since they were in my 5th grade class!) I guess they got too old, or forgot about me :(

At least I have my lilac bouquets scattered around my house to keep my spirits up!

Jeanie said...

So cool! We went to an evensong service at Westminster -- just two weeks ago! Or was it one? I'd love the May dance!