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Maypole Merriment

I set out on an overcast May Day afternoon  to attend a fete at a local school which promised to feature Maypole dancing. By the time I arrived it was pouring with rain and I missed the Maypole Dancing, which took place indoors (!)

It made me wonder if many other places have Maypole dancing.  I remember it from my youth but then May Day started to be seen as a political festival.  I'm not sure if May Day has returned to being viewed as a fertility festival or is just seen now as another drizzly Bank Holiday.

A quick google revealed just how often May Day and Maypole dancing has been celebrated in literature. May can be such a beautiful month with the blossom out and birds nesting that I feel exhilarated and enjoy seeing it celebrated.

Does anyone else feel the same?

The Primary school my kids attended do it every year have done ever since. But they don't do it on May day.

I agree it is lovely to see it celebrated but sadly its a custom which is dying out.

I remember doing it at school, and loving it, but haven't seen it for years.  

I agree, Sandra, it is a lovely thing to celebrate.  This May is particularly lovely because everything was delayed by the cold weather, and now it's all blooming, it's glorious.  The cycle of the year is an amazing thing, and a celebration of life after a long hard winter is surely something to be encouraged.

The political stuff around May Day is all nonsense, I would much rather celebrate the abundance of new life!

I never realised there was a political significance to the May Day bank holiday to be honest apart from the fact the Soviets always had their Red Square parade on May Day, and just thought it was coincidence. What is the political links with May Day?

It's sometimes called Labour Day - Michael Foot made it a bank holiday in the 1970s, to tie in with International Workers' Day, and so it's often associated with socialism and/or communism.  (Labour Day doesn't refer specifically to the Labour party, but to labour in the sense of work.)  That's when it came to be a bank holiday (ie always on a Monday) rather than a celebration of 1st May itself.

Funnily enough, I was looking at a nostalgia group on Facebook (focused on a village near where I grew up), and saw someone had posted pictures of the crowning of the May Queen and the May Day Parade. Do they still do that, or is it not PC? I remember there was always a May Queen and a parade when I was a kid.

When people talk about a May Queen (or May King) I always think of the opera "Albert Herring."

Here are some poems I googled:

THE MAYPOLE by Robert Herrick

The May-pole is up
Now give me the cup;
I'll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown'd it.

A health to my girls,
Whose husbands may earls
Or lords be, granting my wishes,
And when that ye wed
To the bridal bed
Then multiply all, like to fishes.

A MAYPOLE by Jonathan Swift

Deprived of root, and branch and rind,
Yet flowers I bear of every kin:
And such is my prolific power,
They bloom in less than half and hour;
Yet standers-by may plainly see
They get no nourishment from me.
My head with giddiness goes round:
And yet I firmly stand my ground:
All over naked I am seen,
And painted like an Indian queen.
No couple -beggar in the land
E'er joined such numbers hand in hand.
I joined them fairly with a ring:
Nor can our parson blame the thing.
And though no marriage words are spoke,
They part not till the ring is broke:
Yet hypocrite fanatics cry,
I'm but an idol raised on high;
And once a weaver in our town,
A damned Cromwellian, knocked me down.

I lay a prisoner twenty years,
And then the jovial cavaliers
To their old post restored all three -
I mean the church, the king and me.

May-queen? Dancing round the maypole? All “Sassenach r-r-r-ubbish!” as Private Frazer might have said! We had none of that at school in Scotland. Instead, we used to have fun games like “How many words can you make out of the letters P-R-E-S-B-Y-T-E-R-I-A-N-I-S-M”?

How many words can you make out of the letters P-R-E-S-B-Y-T-E-R-I-A-N-I-S-M”?

Britney Spears.  That's two.

I take it you didn't go to school in Summerisle. (c.f. "The Wicker Man")

You beat me to it, Sandra! For the past few minutes I've had the maypole song from that film going round my head.

In the woods there grew a tree
And a fine, fine tree was he

And on that tree there was a limb
And on that limb there was a branch
And on that branch there was a nest

and so on ad infinitum

No, we didn’t go to school in Summerisle, but many of us, as I remember, did fantasise about Ingrid Pitt and Britt Ekland…

There was a rather good thread on another site where people were invited to invent fictitious villages and their traditional annual rituals - it was called 'The Village Green Preservation Society'. A couple of examples:

Bewkley-cum-Frottingstall - in the first week of June they seek the 'Gossamer Wifeling'. The winner is the palest, most slender-wristed and least able to carry a pig on her shoulders. She is drowned.

Barkington St Humphrey - "The Singing of the Potatoes". The first spud harvest is taken to the church; the choir then sings a series of questions aimed at tricking the Devil (who hid himself in a potato according to the local "legend of St Mithras")

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