May Day: Time to celebrate!

May 1, 2015 7:42am

Courtesy of Seattle Post-Intellegencer Collection, MOHAI, PI24660

NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; 5
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush…

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

—”Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins- 1918


 Yes, spring has indeed sprung all around Green Lake! May Day is quickly approaching and perhaps nothing is as celebratory, nor iconic, as the May Pole Dance.

This photo of Green Lake is from 1944 and shows young girls merrily skipping around the May Pole. To the right, their teacher stands patiently observing the festivities. Meanwhile, in the background, a couple strolls along the paved walkway and two sailors ride their bikes. Not much has changed!

So just how was May Day Celebrated in the past?

According to protectbritain.com,  “May Day celebrations have their origins in the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. May Day began early in the morning. People would go out before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune.

Girls would make a special point of washing their faces in the dew of the early morning. They believed this made them very beautiful for the following year.

A traditional May day dance is known as Maypole Dancing. On May Day, people used to cut down young trees and stick them in the ground in the village to mark the arrival of summer. People danced around them in celebration of the end of winter and the start of the fine weather that would allow planting to begin. copyright of protectbritain.com

Maypoles were once common all over England and were kept from one year to the next. Schools would practice skipping round the pole for weeks before the final show on the village greens. The end result would be either a beautiful plaited pattern of ribbons round the pole or a tangled cat’s cradle, depending on how much rehearsing had been done.”

Happy Spring!