Happy May Day! The celebration of May Day dates back to ancient times and like many ancient festivals it has a Pagan connection. For the Druids of the British Isles, the first of May was the second most important holiday of the year, as the festival of Beltane was observed then. It was thought that this day divides the year into half. The other half was marked by Samhain on November 1st.
In ancient times, the predominant May Day custom was the setting of the New Fire. It was one of the ancient New Year rites performed throughout the world. The fire itself was thought to give life to the burgeoning springtime sun. Cattle were driven through the fire to purify them. Men with their sweethearts passed through the smoke for good luck.
When the Romans occupied the British Isles, the beginning of May was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers. It was in her honour that a five-day celebration, called the Floralia, was held. The festival would start on April 28 and end on May 2. Gradually the rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane. The day became associated with fertility rites and the maypole became associated with this aspect of the celebration. Trees have always been the symbol of the great vitality and fertility of nature and were often used at the spring festivals of antiquity. The maypole is a stylised tree and is an obvious phallic symbol.
The election of a May Queen is also a May Day tradition. When the sun rose, the maypole was decked with leaves, flowers and ribbons while dancing and singing went on around it. The Queen was chosen from the pretty girls of the village to reign over the May Day festivities. Crowned on a flower-covered throne, she was drawn in a decorated cart by young men or her maids of honor to the village green. She was set in an arbour of flowers and often the dancing was performed around her, rather than around the Maypole. The May Queen may have been a personification of Flora, the Roman goddess.
May Day observance was discouraged by the Puritans. Though the holiday was revived when the Puritans lost power in England, it didn’t have the same robust force. Gradually, it came to be regarded more as a day of joy and merriment for the kids, rather than a day of observing the ancient fertility rites.
May 1st, International Workers' Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognised in most countries. The USA and Canada are among the exceptions. This is despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the holiday began in the 1880s in the USA, linked to the battle for the eight-hour day, and the Chicago anarchists. May Day is celebrated as Labour Day in most countries around the world, including the United Kingdom. It was officially proclaimed and endorsed by the Soviet Union as the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers.
For May Day, a beautiful Brazilian song sung by the incomparable Elis Regina. It is called “Vento de Maio”, or “May Wind”. My (very bad) translation follows, but I don’t speak Portuguese…
Vento de Maio
Vento de raio
Rainha de maio
Chegou de repente
O fim da viagem
Agora já não dá mais
Pra voltar atrás
Rainha de maio
Valeu o teu pique
Apenas para chover
No meu pique-nique
Assim meu sapato
Coberto de barro
Apenas pra não parar
Nem voltar atrás
Rainha de maio
Valeu a viagem
Agora já não dá mais...
Nisso eu escuto no rádio do carro a nossa canção
(Vento solar e estrelas do mar)
Sol girassol e meus olhos ardendo de tanto cigarro
E quase que eu me esqueci que o tempo não pára nem vai esperar
Vento de maio
Rainha dos raios de sol
Vá no teu pique
Estrela cadente até nunca mais
Não te maltrates
Nem tentes voltar o que não tem mais vez
Nem lembro teu nome nem sei
Estrela qualquer lá no fundo do mar
Vento de maio rainha dos raios de sol
Rainha de maio valeu o teu pique
Apenas para chover no meu pique-nique
Assim meu sapato coberto de barro
Apenas pra não parar nem voltar atrás
Wind of sunrays
May Queen, you’re a
The end of the journey
Now there's no more
Thanks for your rejection,
It caused it to rain
On my picnic.
So that my shoes were
Covered in mud,
Just so that I won’t stop
Or go back.
It was worth the trip,
Now there's more...
I listen to our song on the car radio
(Solar wind and sea stars)
Sunflower sun and my eyes burning with too many cigarettes,
And I almost forgot that time will not stop or wait for us.
Queen of sunshine
Go to your shipwreck,
Catch shooting stars no more;
Don’t force it,
Don’t try to return to what once was.
I do not remember your name,
I do not know
Any star there on the seabed
Wind of May,
Queen of sunshine.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.