"May Day." Top 5 Page for this destination England Local Custom Tip by leics

England Local Customs: 129 reviews and 170 photos

  May blossom
by leics
 
 

Many customs and traditions surround the first day of May, some almost certainly dating back to the time before Christianity came to England (which happened during the Roman period). Sadly, most of these customs and traditions are no longer practised. Bonfires were lit, as at other important times of the year, and young girls rose early to wash their faces in the Mayday dew so that they would become beautiful. Most customs were to ensure fertility and a good harvest (essential for survival).

Perhaps the best known tradition is that of dancing round the maypole. Originally, this was a freshly-felled tree, stripped of its branches and brought into the centre of the village. The ribbons held by the dancers, and the spiral stripes painted on the poles, were both late Victorian additions. We don't really know what type of dancing went on in the past, but I suspect it was linked with the consumption of alcohol and lots of fun!

Some towns and villages still have a maypole and choose a 'May Queen' but you are most likely to see maypole dancing if you attend a school Spring fair (fayre or fete).

May Day became a UK Bank Holiday in 1978, when it was linked with the European workers' holiday, but it is not always on 1st May. In the UK , we take the holiday on the first <Monday in the month.

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  • Updated May 6, 2013
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