May Day has ancient roots, dating back to the pre-Christian celebrations of Floralia - an ancient Roman festival - and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. And unlike many celebrations with ancient roots, May Day has largely retained both its rituals and its meaning throughout the years.
Celebrated as a way of welcoming in the warmer months and to herald the coming of "May flowers" after the last of the April showers, May Day is the perfect way to get into the mood for the summer months ahead. In fact, May 1 was traditionally regarded as the first day of summer.
One of the most interesting aspects of May Day is that it arose in various forms in various cultures. Because of that, it has historically been celebrated in different ways - something that is true to this day. England has a long and rich history of celebrating May Day. Among these traditional celebrations is the maypole, in which dancers place ribbons around a pole. Though less common, many of the smaller English villages still hold a traditional maypole dance, usually with school children.
Another tradition of years past was the decoration of houses with newly sprouted flora and greenery and the wearing of beautiful floral garlands and crowns. Several superstitions also arose along with the holiday, such as the washing of one's face with the first dew of May Day, which was said to grant one exceptional beauty throughout the coming year.
Another common tradition, still practiced in many parts of the world is the crowning of a May Queen, an event that usually occurs as a part of a May Day festival or celebration. While some more macabre storytellers insist that the May Queen was traditionally sacrificed as a part of the May Day celebrations, these days her role is to personify of the glorious summer season as she rides at the front of the May Day parade or presides over the festivities at hand.
A particularly ancient custom associated with May Day that has endured to the present time is the giving of small gifts, baskets, and other treats as a way of celebrating the season. Unsurprisingly, flowers and other greenery are the most common gift items for the holiday. Those with a DIY attitude can craft incredible gifts to give their friends and family at their May Day celebration.
Small bouquets and baskets are perfect treats, whether you purchase flowers to make them or make use of the newly sprouted flowers in your garden. Wrap them in cones crafted from decorative paper, or even from pages from recycled books for a whimsical touch. As an alternative, use cones crafted from colorful felt, small glass jars, or even burlap.
Don't forget to make flower crowns and garlands for the girls who will be in attendance at your celebration! While you can choose to craft them out of faux flowers for a beautiful item that can be worn year round, making crowns and garlands out of real flowers is the perfect way to celebrate May in full bloom.
And last but not least, be sure to erect a maypole in your garden. Just be sure to look up instructions on performing the traditional maypole dance first, or else you'll end up with a bit of a tangle rather than the beautiful plait you are expecting! By keeping all of this in mind, you can enjoy a wonderful May Day celebration right in your very own garden.