The other Face of 'May -Day' : In Europe & North America

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

In the late 19th century 1st May was chosen as the date for" International Worker's Day "by the Socialist and communist to commemorate the Haymarket Affairs in Chicago. International Worker's day can also be referred as May -Day, but it is different celebration from the traditional May-Day celebrated in almost European countries as well as in U.S and Canada.

May Day is an ancient Northern Hemisphere Spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures usually celebrated on 1st May. Dances,singing and cakes are usually part of the festival. The earliest known May celebrations appeared with the FLORALIA, festival of Flora, the roman Goddess of flowers, held on 27 April during the Roman Republic era and the Maiouma or Maiuma, a festival celebrating Dionysus and Aphrodite on an unknown date in May every three years.

The Floralia opened with theatrical performances. In the Floralia, Ovid says that hares and goats were released as part of the festivities. Persius writes that crowds were pelted with vetches, beans and lupins. A ritual called the Florifertum was performed either on April 27 or May 3, during which a bundle of wheat ears was carried into a shrine though it is not clear if this devotion was made to Flora or Ceres. Floralia conducted with competitive events and spectacles and a sacrifice to Flora.

According to the 6th century chronicles of Jhon Malalas, the Maiuma was a "nocturnal dramatic festival" held every three years and known as orgies that is, the Mysterious of Dionysus and Aphrodite and it was known as the Maioumas because it is celebrated in the month of May.

During this time, enough money was set aside by the celebrated with splendorous banquets and offerings. Its reputation for licentiousness causes it to be suppressed during the reign of Emperor Constaine, though a less debauched version of it was briefly restored during the reign of Arcadius and Honorius, only to be suppressed again during the san period.

A later May festival celebrated in Germanic countries, Walpurgis Night, commemorates the official canonization of Saint Walpurga on May 1st, 870. In Gaelic culture, the evening of April 30th was the celebration of Beltane (Whichtransact to- Lucky fire), the start of summer season. First attested in 900 AD, the celebration mainly focused on the symbolic use of fire to bless cattle and other livestock's as they were moved to summer pastures.

On May Day, Bulgarians celebrates Irminden. The holiday is associated with snakes and lizards and rituals are made in order to protect people from them. In Czech Republic, May Day istraditionallyconsidered as a holiday of love and May as a month of love. The celebration of spring are held on 30thApril, when a Maypole is erected- a tradition possibly connected to Beltane, since bonfires are also lit on that day.

It is a public holiday on 30 April. On May 31st the Maypole is taken down in an event called Maypole felling. On 1st May couples in love are kissing under a blooming tree. May Day or Spring Day is a national holiday in Estonia, celebrating the arrival of spring. More traditional festivities takes place throughout the night before and into the early hours of 1 May.

In Finland: Walpurgis Night is one of the four biggest holidays along with Christmas Eve; New Year eve and Midsummer. Walpurgis witness the biggest carnival style festival held in Finland's cities and towns. The celebration which begin on the evening of 30th April and continue up to 1st May. Typically center on the consumption of Sima, sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages.

Student's traditions, particularly those of engineering students are one of the main characteristic of Vappu. On May 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime on 1 May. The

government permits individuals and workers organization to sell them tax free on that day. Nowadays, people may present loved ones either with bunches of lily of the valley or dog rose flowers. In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of Pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day including bonfires and wrapping of a Maibaum (Maypole). Young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air,

Motto : Tanz in den mai( dancing into May). In Greece, 1 May is a day that celebrates spring. The most common aspect of modern May Day celebrations in Greece is the preparation of a flower wreath from wild flowers. The flowers are placed on the wreath against a background of green leaves and the wreath is hung either on the entrance to the family house/apartment or on a balcony.

It remains there until midsummer night. On that night, the flower wreaths are set alight in bonfires, known as St John's fire. May Day has been celebrating in Ireland since pagan times as the feast of Baltane and latter time as Mary's day.

Traditionally, bonfires were lit to mark the coming of summer and to grant luck to people and livestock. Old traditions such as bonfire are no longer widely observed though the practice still persist in some places across the country.

In Italy, it is called Calendimaggio or Cantar Maggio, a seasonal feast held to celebrate the arrival of spring. "Maias" is a superstition throughout Portugal, with special focus on the northern territories and rarely elsewhere. Maias is the dominant naming in northern Portugal, but it may be referred to by other names including DiadasBruxas( Witches day), O Burro( the Donkey, referring to an evil spirit) or the last of April as the local traditions preserved to this day occur on that evening only.

People put yellow flowers of Portuguese brooms, the bushes are known as giestar. The flowers of the bush are known as Maias,which are placed on doors or gates and every doorways of houses, windows, granaries, currently also cars, which the populace collect on the evening of the 30th April when the Portuguese brooms are blooming, to defend those places from bad spirit, witches and evil eyes.

The placement of the May flower or bush in the doorways must be done before midnight. On May Day, the Romanians celebrate the arminden (or Armindeni), the beginning of summer, symbolically tied with the protection of crops and farm animals. The day is celebrated to ensure good wine in autumn and for people and farm animals' alike, good health and protection from the elements of nature (Storms, hailillness pests).

People will have parties in natural surroundings with fiddlers for those who could afford it. Then it is customary to roast and eat lamb along with new mutton cheese and to drink mug wort- flavored wine or just red wine to refresh the blood and get protection from diseases. On the way back, the men wear lilac or mug wort flowers on their hats.

In Serbia, Provomajski Uranak (Reveille on May 1st) is a folk tradition and feast that consist of the fact that on May 1, people go in the nature or even leave the day before and spend the night with a camp fire. Most of the time, a dish is cooked in a kettle or in a barbecue. Among Serbs this holiday is widespread. Almost every town in Serbia, has its own traditional first-of- May excursion sites and most often these are green areas outside the city.

In Spain, May day is celebrated throughout the country as Los Mayos (Lit; the May's) often in a similar way to Fista de las Crees in many parts of the Hispanic America. People sing popular songs (also called Maios) making mentions to social and political events (around a decorate tree or sculpture) during the past year, sometimes under the form of converse, while they walk around with the percussion of two sticks. Today the tradition became a competition where the best sculpture and songs received prize.

In Sweden, the more traditional festivities have moved to the day before Walpurgis Night, known in some locals as simply last of April and often celebrated with bonfire and a good bit of drinking. However 1st May is celebrated as International Worker's Day.

Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include crowning a May Queen and celebrations involving a Maypole, around which dancers often circle with ribbons. Historically. Morris dancing has been linked to May Day celebrations. May Day has been celebrated in Scotland for centuries. It was previously closely associated with Beltane festival.

In Wales, the first day of May is known as Calan Mai or CalanHaf, and parallels the festival of Beltane and other May Day tradition in Europe. Traditions would start the night before with bonfires and is considered a spring night when people would gather hawthorn and flowers to decorate their houses, celebrating new growth and fertility.

While on May Day celebrations would include summer dancing and May carols other times referred to as singing under the wall, May Day wasalso a time for officially opening a village green. In Canada,May Day is celebrated in some parts of the provinces of British Columbia,Quebec,New Brunswick and Ontario.

In Toronto, on the morning of 1st May, various Morris dancing troops from Toronto and Hamilton gather on the road by grenadier, café, inHigh Park to dance in the May. MayDay was also celebrated by some early European settlers of the American continent.

In some parts of the United States, May basket are made. These are small baskets usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone's doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away. This is how, May Day is celebrated in various parts of European & North Americans countries.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 06, 2019.

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