It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
May 1st, often referred to as May Day, is a true cornucopia of holidays given the fact that it is the only day in the year with so many different festivals/rituals observed on it. From Neo-Pagan festivals and feasts and commemorations of political protests to a salutation to organized labour, cause for celebration is rampant on this particular day. However, the earliest holiday dedicated to this day was most definitely the Celtic feast of Beltane. Hence, we'll limit our focus to the more cultural aspects of the day rather than its more famous, political ones.
This day is said to mark the ushering in of summer or spring time, and is also said to mark the end of an un-farmable winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It quickly became Neo-Pagan in nature and rituals involved creating bonfires, driving cattle between two fires, burning witches' effigies and making Beltane cakes. One piece of this cake would be blackened and the unlucky soul receiving that piece would even be subjected to a mock execution!
In recent years, this particulate facet of this day has been revived by Neo-Pagan groups as a major seasonal ritual. In Germany, a hybrid legend developed that witches met on the eve of May 1st on the Brocken Peak--and this night came to be known as 'Walpurgishacht.' This annual meeting was even greatly dramatized in Goethe's Faust!
In most other countries celebrating this day as a non-political day, (read: India, England, and Egypt to name a few) there was nothing pagan or witchcraft-related about it at all. Rather, it had a spring fertility theme. The Romans celebrate Flora, their goddess of fertility, flowers, and spring, while in medieval England, people would celebrate this coming of good weather by going into the woods and gathering leaves and flowers--otherwise known as 'bringing in the May.'
This tradition was greatly dramatized and documented in the literature of that time by some of the greats such as Chaucer and even Goethe. Other well-known traditions include England's 'Maypole.' Each town had a special Maypole, which would be the focal point of all festivities and it used to be decorated with brightly coloured ribbons and greenery!
There are several other competing holidays dedicated to this day, which has deep Pagan roots. But given that it's a bank holiday, the majority of the world simply uses it to swig beers and lay back on their couches--a much-needed break from mundane jobs and hard work!
-Pictures courtesy Thinkstock-
you might also like
With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes mixes the old an...
If Bollywood ever went down the 007 agent route, w...