Happy May Day! Today marks the first day of summer on the Celtic calendar. The potted paeony outside my front door is laden with buds. I think it’s completely appropriate that it began blooming this morning. During this time of worldwide turmoil, it cheers me to observe the seasons and celebrate beauty where it can still be found.
In Ireland May Day is a public holiday, the equivalent of Labor Day in the United States. On Monday most people will be off of work (if they’re fortunate enough to still have employment during the full lockdown). The holiday has two meanings here: one is to celebrate the work force, but the traditional celebration has spiritual roots. Bealtine celebrates fertility, the blossoming of flowers and fruits, and the beginning of the harvest season since crops have recently been sown. There are many customs and rituals such as lighting fires, dancing, making music, and feasting.
When my teenagers were small they attended a Waldorf kindergarten. Each May Day the children would create crowns of flowers to wear. Parents would gather with them at the school and dance around the May Pole. Each person held a colorful ribbon attached to the pole. As we weaved in and out different patterns were created. We brought food to share and played music together. I dug out these photos of my little munchkins dating back 12 years.
I treasure the Waldorf books I’ve collected over the years. All Year Round and Festivals Family and Food have been great resources. I particularly like this quote about May Day:
To the rhythm of lively music, the Maypole dance works its magic, translating the invisible weaving of colour and light in the streaming summer air into a moment of restrained clarity. Here the pattern of things, the creative intention of the dance, is briefly revealed before dissolving again into the flowing energy of life.
English gardeners know this moment well when, at the beginning of May, the plants are crisp in their new growth, the patterns of leaf structure are well defined and give a characteristic gesture to each plant. Later, the texture of the garden loosens as the process of flowering and fruiting unfolds, until the form is lost completely in the inevitable cycle of renewal.
May Day brings promise: to the farmer, the promise of kind weather; to the girl who washes her face with May Day dew, the promise of a fine complexion; to the young people weaving the pattern of creation around the Maypole, the eternal promise of the future.All Year Round, page 84
The eternal promise of the future…
Isn’t that just beautiful? In this context, I think promise is linked to hope and cultivating potential in oneself. Many of us are worried about the future right now. Today might be a good day to let go of fear of the unknown, and focus instead on the gifts that May brings. What metaphorical seeds are you planting right now?
The May bank holiday weekend has become even more special at our house because it always lands close to Blessing’s birthday! This blog was conceived while I was still pregnant with him, and I can’t believe he will be three in a few days. (You can read the dramatic story leading up to his birth here). Unfortunately he won’t be able to celebrate with all 5 of his siblings this year because of the lockdown restrictions. However, we’re going to bake a cake for our May Day celebration, which also coincides with his dad’s other children’s visit. Maybe we’ll stick a few candles on the cake and sing a round of lá breithe shona duit this weekend! We’re also planning to light a bonfire and may even pitch a tent.