Friday, 1 May 2009

May Day

Today is 1 May, commonly known as May Day. Unbelievably, we are now a third of the way through another year. In many countries, May day is synonymous with International Workers day, or Labour day, which celebrates the social and economic achievements of the labour movement.
As a day of celebration the holiday has ancient origins, and it can relate to many customs that have survived into modern times.
Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris Dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing round the Maypole. Much of this tradition derives from pagan Anglo-Saxon customs. It is much associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings.
Since May 1st is the feast of St Philip and St James, they became the patron saints of workers. Seeding has been completed by this date and it was convenient to give farm labourers a day off.
Perhaps the most significant of the traditions is the Maypole, around which traditional dancers
circle with ribbons.
In Oxford it is traditional for revellers to gather below Magdalen College tower to listen to the college's choir for what is called May Morning.
At Whitstable, Kent, the Jack in Green festival was revived in 1976 and continues to lead an annual procession of Morris dancers through the town on the May Day Bank Holiday. A separate revival occurred at Hastings in 1983 and has become a major event in the town calendar. Padstow also holds its own annual 'Obby 'Oss festival. This is believed to be one of the oldest fertility rites in the UK; revellers dance with the Oss (toy horse) through the streets of the town and even through private gardens of the citizens, accompanied by accordion players and followers dressed in white with red and blue sashes who sing the traditional May Day song. May Day celebrations have been revived in St Ives and in 2008 also in Penzance.
Also, 1 May 1707 was the day the Act of Union came into effect, joining England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.