Tag Archives: Springtime fertility

Traditional May Day celebrations in Europe

In previous postings having looked at the different month of May celebration we continue with this guest-article.

Painting of a hobby horse with morris dancers beside the Thames at Richmond, Surrey, c.1620

Guestwriter Chris Pearce also looks at the origins in ancient pagan festivals and in crop and pastoral cycles in many societies across Europe. going from Walpurgis Night, Bealtaine or Beltane, also spelled Beltine, Irish Beltaine or Belltaine, also known as Cétamain, festival held on the first day of May in Ireland and Scotland, celebrating the beginning of summer and open pasturing, up to the Floralia festival, Obby-Oss or Hobby horse, going into the days for Mary.


To remember

Druids celebrated May = day of their Bealtaine, or Beltane, festival or feast = similar ceremony = Walpurgis Night in Germany + surrounding areas

religious aspect of May Day > worshipped goddess of flowers, Flora => Bealtaine became part of Floralia festival

During the Puritan era 16th /17th centuries, May Day became more of a secular celebration

English: The Chickens, Jack in the Green Festi...

The Chickens, Jack in the Green Festival Every May Bank holiday Monday this parade is held as part of the Jack in the Green Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

United Kingdom, as in many countries, May Day or the first Monday in May = public holiday. Originally feast = celebrated new crops + springtime fertility > many of these gatherings, popular tradition dancing around the maypole = wooden pole driven into the ground + adorned with ribbons, flowers + other decorations which vary between regions >Dancers hang on to the ribbons + weave around each other as they circle the pole, men or boys in one direction and women or girls in the other => pole entwined with ribbon + participants finish up at its base

Morris dancing =  another favourite traditional activity on May Day = choreographed dance by groups of dancers with sticks or pieces of cloth, sometimes performed around a maypole or as part of a parade.


Preceding articles:

May, for many a month for mothers and many celebrations

Religious celebrations in May 2016

Golden Week a cluster of holidays from late April to early May



(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)

May 1 is known as May Day. It has its origins in ancient pagan festivals and in crop and pastoral cycles in many societies across Europe. May 1 is the start of the warmer six months of the year in the northern hemisphere after often bitterly cold winters and this was cause for celebration with bonfires and dancing. The Druids celebrated May 1 as the day of their Bealtaine, or Beltane, festival or feast. At the same time, Germany and surrounding areas celebrated Walpurgis Night, a similar ceremony.

The religious aspect of May Day continued after the Romans arrived in Britain. They worshipped their goddess of flowers, Flora, on this day. This ceremony had been conducted in romanized Europe for some time. In Britain, the old customs of Bealtaine became part of the Floralia festival. During the Puritan era in the 16th…

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