At its roots, May 1, May Day, is an ancient Celtic and Germanic holiday. The townsfolk (who had survived the long harsh winter) celebrated spring’s arrival and the promise of warmer weather on the first of May. Astronomically, it’s one of the year’s four cross-quarter days; a day that falls halfway between an equinox and solstice.
So while not everyone has access to a May pole (or willing participants) here a few May Day traditions that you can try at home.
- Crown a family May Queen. Traditionally, the lucky lady gets to sit in a throne adorned with fresh flowers to observe the dancing and games. Use fresh flowers from your garden to make and wear a simple floral crown.
- Build a May Day flower bed. Plants bulbs that bloom in late spring to ensure plenty of fresh flowers for gift giving and cut flowers.
- Give a May Day basket to a neighbor or friend. Pick some flowers from your garden flower bed and tuck them into a small basket or cone. Traditionally, these are delivered anonymously by placing them on a doorstep or hanging them on a doorknob. The doorbell is rung and the giver of the basket runs away before the door is opened. Like a May Day Trick or Treat!
- In the Germanic cultures, bonfires were lit for May Day. Cattle were driven between them to ward off evil spirits and protect them from harm. No cattle? No problem. The evenings are still chilly, so pay homage to this tradition by gathering around a backyard fire pit and roasting some marshmallows.
- Dine al fresco and enjoy some May Day Punch. Traditionally, this cocktail is made by infusing dry and sparkling wines with the common garden herb, sweet woodruff. Since sweet woodruff has been linked to health issues, try this variation and add fresh fruit from your garden or store instead.
- 2 pints strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 vanilla bean, sliced thin
- 1 bottle dry white wine
- 1 bottle Champagne
- ½ cup honey
- Flower petals from your garden for decoration
Directions:In a bowl, mash half of the fruit. Fold in honey. Pour wine over the mixture, add vanilla bean and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for about eight hours and strain. Pour the liquid into a punch bowl over ice and add remaining berries, Champagne and flower petals. Serve chilled.
However you decide to celebrate May Day, be sure to get outside and enjoy the new season.