With weather warming, the sun shining, and everything coming back to life, you and your kids are probably getting a touch of spring fever. Why not celebrate with May Day festivities? Here are some fun ideas for celebrating this holiday’s traditions in your own backyard.
May Day has been around since ancient times. Traditionally, the holiday marks the beginning of farmable spring in the Northern hemisphere, and is associated with various Celtic and German festivals. Today, many European communities celebrate May Day by erecting a large Maypole in the middle of town, giving each other flowers and gifts, and dancing. The evening before May 1st, young people head out to find flowers and greenery, especially blossoming tree branches. This is called “fetching in the May.”
For your own May Day celebration, it’s fun to mix and match a variety of crafts and activities, traditional and not. Pretty much any act that celebrates spring is fair game. If you get up early to pick flowers, try indulging in another tradition: kissing the dew, or washing your face in the morning dew for beauty and good luck. Tie your flowers and twigs with some string or yarn to make garlands, or use them to make May Baskets. These are small baskets or cones filled with flowers and treats. Try leaving a May Basket on a neighbor’s doorstep, ringing the bell, and running away. May Baskets make great party favors, too.
Dressing up and putting on a show is another fun May Day tradition. Traditionally, May Day revelers select a May Queen, complete with throne and crown, to preside over festivities and dancing, but you may not want to single out just one person to fill this role; there can be many May Princes and Princesses at your gathering. Offer scarves, hats, belts, and other bits from the dress-up trunk to help children turn themselves into woodsmen, flower fairies, or anyone else who fits into your idea of a nature celebration. Sing songs about spring, and learn a few simple folk dances to really get in the holiday spirit.
The central event of May Day is usually the Maypole. If you don’t have a 50-foot pole lying around, you can make your own mini-May Pole out of a tent pole, tall cardboard tube, PVC pipe from the hardware store – whatever suits your needs. Just tie or glue strands of string or ribbon to the top and let them flutter down. Give one ribbon to each reveler and experiment with dance steps that weave different patterns around the pole. Try this one: circle up with half of the dancers going in either direction, weaving in and out of one another like a figure 8. Make it a game and get the grown-ups involved for a little healthy competition. Who can make the coolest pattern?
May Day is, at its core, a celebration of how nature flourishes again after a long winter. It’s also a great opportunity to remind your kids to leave their screens and get involved in some healthy outdoor fun. So what are you waiting for? Get planning and get outside for a May Day play day!