May Day - Quirky Global Traditions

1st May is a special day around with the world, with May Day marking the beginning of summer. May Day festivities often have their roots in pagan or ancient religious traditions, with many quirky traditions across the globe.

Here are five facts about May Day including how it is celebrated across the globe.

  1. Traditional English May Day rituals include crowning a May Queen and dancing around a maypole encircled with ribbons to welcome in the summer. Originally based on a Pagan festival, the Morris dancing has been linked to May Day celebrations and there are many events up and down the UK focusing on celebration and merriment.

  2. May Day is often referred to as Beltane or Latha Bealltainn in Gaelic and Lá Bealtaine in Irish, which literally translates to 'Bel of Fire'.Sometimes known as ‘The Day of Fire’, bonfires are lit which present an opportunity for purification. Wales also lights fires as part of its May Day Celebrations.

  3. Walpurgis Night is a celebration named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga observed in Germany, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. People celebrate with large bonfires and dancing.
  4. Norway, the USA, Canada, China and many other countries now celebrate Labour Day on 1st May, to both thank their workers for their hard work over the year and give them a well earned rest with a public holiday.  Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. 

  5. May Day is called Protomagia in Greek. Children set out at first light in search of the first swallow of spring. When the bird is located, the children go from house to house in the early morning, singing songs of spring. They are treated with cakes, fruit and nuts.

There are many other ways in which May Day is celebrated throughout the world. Leave a comment on our social media and let us know what May Day is called in your country and how it is celebrated.


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