Thursday, 1 May 2014

May Day Mischief

I have vivid memories of living in Leeds, as a young child, and playing tricks on my dad for 'Mischievous Night'.  When I was about nine, this past time disappeared from our calendar and I only thought about it again last week as we celebrated my dad's birthday.

My brother had no recollection, so this started me off on an Internet search to find out if I had made it up!  I was pleased to discover that 'Mischief Night' was indeed celebrated Up North on the 1st of May, as a late April fooling pastime.  My memories included covering our front doorknob in treacle so my dad got a sticky surprise upon his return from work.  I don't remember if he found it as amusing as we did! 

According to my sources, the mischief night celebrations were originally part of the May Day festivities but were moved to November 4th during the Industrial Revolution.

I didn't mention these pranks to my own children for fear of a sticky entrance when I got home, but I did suggest we had a bonfire to celebrate May Day.

'What's May Day all about mum?'

'Ah!'  I wasn't sure which version of events to give them.  Did I opt for the fight for an eight hour working day, and tell them it was actually International Workers Day?  Or did I tell them that the Romans didn't need much of a reason to have a good knees up and celebrated the coming of Spring with dancing?

I could go down the religious route and mention the celebration of the Virgin Mary, or pop back to the 17th century when the Puritans put a stop to all May Day celebrations due to the immorality of the drinking and dancing - probably best to avoid all scandalous reputations when addressing the children!

The Victorians enjoyed a revival in May Day celebrations in the 19th century, but they ignored the historical aspects of the day and embraced it as a more straight laced children's festival - maybe my children would prefer this version of events.

Personally I prefer the medieval way of dedicating the festivities to Robin Hood!

Legendary characters aside, I decided to tell them about the pagan origins and that May Day was also known as Beltane. 

As Beltane is a Celtic fire festival, this was a perfect way to explain my sudden urge to have a bonfire.  These fires were lit to mimic the sun and ensure that there was a plentiful supply of summer sunshine (doesn't sound so daft now does it!)

So whether you decide to celebrate May Day with a skip around the Maypole, a spot of Morris Dancing, crowning yourself as May Queen, or leaving work at 5pm, do it with a smile on your face and a sunny intention in your heart.

May Day was celebrated as a fertility festival to ensure the towns and villages had an abundance of good soil, crops and babies.  That sounds like a great excuse for a celebration if you ask me!

Will you be dashing out to wash your face in the morning dew, for a beautiful May Day complexion, or will you let this day pass you by?  I'd love to know what you think...

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