Hymnus Eucharisticus is sung each Mayday at 6am, welcoming the rising sun from Magdalen College tower in Oxford keeping a beautiful tradition that is over 500 years old.
Many Morris Dancers will be dancing a Mayday Dawn Dance throughout the British Isles. And there will be ‘GreenMen’ a plenty escorting the spring/summer in and banishing winter at a variety of events countrywide. Maypole dancing will celebrate this special day across many village greens, with ribbons twisting and weaving around the pole.
But if you can’t get to any Mayday events or prefer to not be engulfed by bank holiday crowds there will be no better way to hear singing on May morning than to listen to the dawn chorus courtesy of Mother Nature’s choir of birds, all vying for a place to be the most heard and attract a mate. The dawn chorus welcomes daybreak every day but on Mayday morning it is particularly special to hear.
You could follow your early start by following the tradition of bathing in the dew and collecting greenery and flowers to adorn your home and protect it from mischievous Maytime spirits. Then breakfast on the first cream skimmed from the milk for your porridge washed down by the first water drawn from the well. In reality we may not quite be able to follow some of these traditions but we can certainly have a good attempt at something similar. There is never any better way to welcome the merry month of May than being in nature and witnessing the turning of the year for yourself.
Mayday is known as Beltane (many variations of this word) - a day that has been celebrated for so long. Beltane’s origins lie in Gaelic/Celtic cultures of Ireland,Scotland, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Wales where it is known as Calan Mai. It has been a long held tradition to mark the day with bonfires, gatherings, blessings and fairs as the herds and flicks were moved to summer pastures. The smoke from the bonfires purified the land and animals and could even give protection. It was traditional for many of these bonfires to be lit on Mayday eve when the supernatural world was closest to our living world and spirits would slip through. People would take ashes from the fire to protect their homes.
The Opposite Day to Beltane is Samhain or Halloween when the dark part of the year and winter beckons. So we have 6 months to make merry and enjoy the summer months of light, growth and warmth ( let’s hope not quite as warm as last year!)
We hope you manage to mark this long held significant day in the country calendar- remember just small acts such as lighting a candle, picking a sprig of green, listening to the birdsong and taking a breath of mayday air can be your way it doesn’t have to be grand gestures. It is a day of love, hope and joy and we are sending all those wishes to you x
If you do decide to pop out to a mayday event there is the Jack in the Green festival in Hastings, a smaller Greenman event in Clun,Shropshire, morris dancing in Stroud and many more fairs and ways to spend your day.
You can also join in No Mow May … leave your lawn long and let nature flourish and take a break !
Merry Mayday to you all and remember 'don't cast a clout until May is out', we'll leave you to decide if this means the hawthorn blossom or the month itself ! Our hawthorn is still tight budded but our ornamental cherry and apple blossom is abundant.