Mayday or May Day? Early May Bank Holiday in England

Mayday or May Day? Early May Bank Holiday in England

Good morning everyone!

Eight days of May has just passed away… Time goes by so fast…

What does the month of May remind you of? What are your feelings about this period? Do you have any significant celebrations in May?

In fact, the beginning of this month in many European countries is associated with May Day or bank holidays. A large number of members of the European Economic Community have a few days off work to spend it with families in order to solemnise this vernal season.

We, residents of Poland, have „Majówka” which also may be associated with other May Day traditions and customs in different old-world countries. Spending time on having a barbecue during a rainy day or memorising the post-communism fete on 1st May (Labour Day) are part of our culture and social life, I would say.

Moreover, so do the British have May Day festivities. I am about to explain some facts about their celebrations. I fully assume that you’ll be entertained!

The origins of May Day

To begin with, the traditional spring holiday is named May Day. The purpose of it is to solemnise the hope of coming summer – the time of the year when it is warmer, sunnier, as hot as in a furnace, and as well as many flowers or plants blossom.

Initially, some ages ago, the Romans honoured the goddess of summer and harvest. Their festival was originally held at the beginning of May and that is why many Europeans jubilate May Day in the first days of this month.

This year, the Early May Bank Holiday in England is moved. We are celebrating English May Day today – on Friday 8th May – on account of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II – Victory in Europe Day.

Traditional May Day in England

The original day of rest is connected with pagan customs in Britain in the 15th century. By origin, people crowded on the blooming and colourful field just before the sunrise. They were dancing to the rhythm of loud accordion sounds. The most eminent spinnings were Morris dance and Maypole dance.

During Maypole dance children and girls were spinning around the pole in the circle with long vibrant ribbons while Morris dancers, mostly men dressed up in black costumes with dark-painted face, were holding wooden sticks which were used to their choreography.

Another custom was crowning a May Queen. A juvenile girl was hailed a new goddess of summer.

Traditional May Day, Glastonbury, England, 2018 – Normal For Glastonbury, Vicki Steward

The Early May Bank Holiday

The first Monday in May is a bank holiday and many people have a day off work, however, these spring-time feasts take place at the weekend as well. The long weekend is known as The Early May Bank Holiday. A plethora of public organisations, shops, and schools are closed.

Citizens – both the young and the elderly – gather together in the city centre to take part in May processions, although the celebrations are more observed in small towns or villages. Pubs and restaurants organise concerts of local bands in the evening. Spectators watch street spectacles of regional reenactment groups which provide entertainment to viewers by dressing-up old-fashioned, authentic costumes and dancing to vintage music played on antique instruments.

The British ladies worship wearing summer floral crowns and flowerful dresses during public celebrations. It is a splendid date for everyone to value sunny weather, meetings with friends, and vivid, blossoming life.

During those occasions, we may treasure such odds and sods. It might look that these things are normal, common, but in situations like Coronavirus lockdown, we start to price small and social events in our life.

Modern May Day, Oxford, England, 2019 – Graduate Study at Oxford

Nowadays, some political groups or trade unions organise labour marches to demand rights for workers in main cities. For instance, this kind of procession takes place every year in London. Some years ago the marches ended violently, but recently, they have remained bloodless and nonviolent.

Mayday or May Day?

‚Mayday’ is an expression used by radiotelephone operators on ships or aeroplanes to signalise SOS alarm. This word comes from the French verb ‚m’aider’ – ‚to help (me)’.

‚May Day’ is a bank holiday in European countries; the period when people celebrate the approaching of summer days.

I keep my fingers crossed that you’ve liked my post.

What do you think about the ancestral pagan customs of May Day? Would you like to participate in that extraordinary festival? Give me your opinions in the comments!


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