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May Day

Celebrating May Day on May 1st began long before it became International Workers Day in the late 1800s. In ancient times, the Celts divided their year into four seasons and celebrated the festival of Beltane that day, which marked the first day of summer. The Romans held their festival of Floralia around the same time in honour of Flora, the goddess of flowers. Modern May Day celebrations have their roots in these ancient springtime festivals.

In pagan tradition, the May Queen was a kind of goddess who was believed to fight the Queen of Winter at Beltane. Today, especially in rural areas of the UK, a May Queen is chosen from the local girls on May 1st. This May Queen wears a white dress and a crown of flowers and leads the May Day procession. Another rural tradition is Maypole dancing. Children hold long coloured ribbons attached to a pole, which they dance around. This tradition probably started in pagan times, too, with children dancing around a tree. If you see someone dressed in green and decorated with leaves at a May Day celebration, this is the Green Man or Jack-in-the-Green. He is another reminder of pagan times, when people worshipped trees.

Wherever you are in the UK, after a long, dark winter, celebrating May Day feels like a great idea.