Wednesday is the first day of May, recognized by many cultures as a time to celebrate rebirth and renewal.
I have been enjoying hearing the birds again. It is so nice to be outdoors and hear bird songs, even the slightly scary ones.
The weather has awakened the trees and plants, and it is now time to get rid of the leaves, tree limbs and twigs that are visible now that the snow is gone.
When I think of May Day, I recall my childhood and the tradition of making small baskets of treats (popcorn, candy corn, peanuts and perhaps some M&Ms) to deliver to our friends in the neighborhood.
We would sneak up to the door of their house, place the basket on the step and try to run away before we were seen. If we got caught, we might get pinched.
Yeah, it was a bit odd.
In doing some research for this column, I learned that many European traditions on May Day revolved around fertility and usually involved parties. The May basket that we tried to duplicate in my childhood actually had its roots in the past.
Baskets of flowers were often given out in older May Day celebrations and could also include a small gift. However, this must be done without being seen––if caught, your neighbor can apparently, claim a kiss!
A kiss? I understand why they had nine-year-olds trying to pinch each other now.
May eve is said to be a time when the spirit world and the physical world are close together. Folk divination methods can be done for fun in the evening, for example peeling an apple with a knife, so that the peel stays in one piece. Then cut the apple in half and eat half of it with your back to a mirror. Throw the other half over your left shoulder and quickly turn to face the mirror. It is said to then reveal your future partner’s face looking over your shoulder.
Alternatively, you can go out at dusk and gather nine flowers (each of a different type). Tie them up with a string and place them under your pillow. It is believed to reveal your future mate in your dreams.
I don’t recommend any of these things. It appears that our pagan ancestors really tried hard to find ways to amuse themselves.
After surviving the winter, especially hard winters like we just experienced, I think it is natural to want to celebrate the fact that we survived. I also get that survival in those days depended on propagating the species, and these ceremonies were a way of getting people together. This was the way they did things before e-Harmony.
But boy, talk about peer pressure!
And, as our society has evolved, we have tried to keep traditions alive by changing the meaning (or just plain trying to forget the meaning).
I think it is perfectly fine to make a May basket to give to someone that would appreciate being remembered. Acts of kindness are always in style.
So, when Wednesday rolls around, perhaps you could give a basket of flowers or treats to someone for no reason at all.
Because we can.
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