May Day, celebrated on May 1, is possibly one of the earliest religious celebrations, dating from well before the Christian era. It was first observed as a solar festival and called Beltane among the pagan peoples of ancient times, and was thought to divide the year in half. It was also a celebration of fertility at the time of planting the crops, and celebrants were encouraged to make love in the fields on that day to ensure a good harvest.
In modern days, May Day has largely been secularized and celebrated more as a welcoming of springtime, with traditional dances while weaving ribbons around a Maypole or with the giving of “May baskets” filled with flowers or sweets, usually left anonymously on neighbors’ doorsteps.
In an unrelated context, May Day is also celebrated in many countries as International Workers’ Day, and celebrates the achievements of the international labor movement to provide better working conditions.
Check it out:
Beltane: Springtime Rituals, Lore and Celebration. Discover the roots of Beltane or “bright fire,” the ancient Pagan festival that celebrates spring, and the return of nature’s season of growth and renewal. In the only book written solely on this ancient Pagan festival, you’ll explore the evolution of the May Pole and various folklore characters connected to May Day celebrations.
May Day/Lei Day. Going back centuries, the Kingdoms of Hawaii and Great Britain have shared an admiration for celebrations, royalty, and flowers. That connection is explored in Minako Ishii’s flip book, May Day/Lei Day.
Forces of Labor: Workers’ Movements and Globalization Since 1870. Recasting labor studies in a long-term and global framework, the book draws on a major new database on world labor unrest to show how local labor movements have been related to world-scale political, economic, and social processes since the late nineteenth century.