Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day! May Day!

No, the Malaysian airplane has not been found (as far as anyone knows.)  The headline is a reference to a holiday that most of Europe celebrates, but we Americans have a great deal less enthusiasm for it. 

May 1st is also recognized as International Workers Day which has a distinctly Communist ring to it so let's go stand with the pagans.

Originally, pre-Christianity the first of May was a pagan celebration of the arrival of Spring.  Then Saint Walpurga brought Christianity to Germany.  So much for the poor pagans, now expected to sit in church and sing hymns to God and not their own favorites.    But ... not so fast there.  A group of neo-pagans are working hard to bring it back in all of its raucous splendor. 

European celebrations include electing the May Queen and, of course, plenty of food and drink.  Another quaint custom is to get the Maypole out of storage (or hock, whichever) and the night of April 30th, it is smuggled into the front yard of the prettiest girl in town's home.  Next morning it is discovered (!) and moved to the village green whereupon all of the women in the village begin dancing around it, picturesquely winding brightly-colored ribbons onto it.  The women, in turn, slither past their boyfriend's homes and leave a big heart made of flowers on his doorstep or the front door

In France, lilies of the valley are handed out to the populace.  This goes back to King Charles IX who was given a sprig of lily of the valley on May 1, 1561, as a good luck charm.  He liked the idea so much that he began giving all of the women at court a sprig May 1st, no doubt with flowery and fulsome compliments.  The French don't forget stuff, although there is now more importance given there to International Workers Day rather than luck.

May Day is the only street-type carnival all year long in Finland.  What?  It's too cold to be outdoors any other day?  That doesn't seem logical ...

Many are the references to Walpurgis Night which is one of the rowdiest celebrations all year, outpacing even New Year's Eve.  Lock your doors - the neo-pagans are celebrating the arrival of Christianity in Germany!  With bacchanals that would curl your hair. 

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