Yesterday you probably saw working-class people parading at various locations around the world for May Day, the first of May. In my lifetime, May Day has always belonged to the labor movement.
But that’s only been true since the 19th Century. According to the EarthSky website, May Day is actually an astronomical holiday. I’m sure you are familiar with the two solstices, marking the beginning of summer and winter, and the two equinoxes, the beginning of spring and autumn. May Day is considered a cross-quarter day, falling midway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. And yes, there are three others —
Groundhog Day on February 2, Lammas on August 1 and Halloween on October 31. May Day is also related to the Celtic festival of Beltane, celebrated as the Northern Hemisphere moves closer to summer.
This used to be a major holiday. During the Middle Ages, English villages all had Maypoles — trees carried in from the forest — which led to competition to see who had the tallest. In large cities like London, the Maypoles were permanent. And there was a time in the late 20th century when people made May baskets to leave on others’ doorsteps.
So if you’re looking for an excuse to party, it’s a bit late to dance around a Maypole, but Lammas will arrive August first.
Taken from “Why do we celebrate May Day?” by Deborah Byrd (https://earthsky.org/human-world/why-do-we-celebrate-may-day?). The illustration came from that site.