May Day on May 1 is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. May Day coincides with International Workers' Day, and in many countries that celebrate the 1atter, it may be referred to as
May Day was not established as a public holiday until 1933. As Labour Day, many political parties and unions host activities re1ated to work and employment.
As Europe became Christianized, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or rep1aced by new Christian holidays as with Christmas, Easter, and All Saint's Day. In the 20th and continuing into the 21st century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again. Note that the source noted does not support any of the changes c1aimed by the previous statement. The only significant Christianization of May day is essential localized to Germany where it is one of many historic days that were used to celebrate St. Walburga (the saint credited with bringing Christianity to Germany).
The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe. A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this fonn, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning of the Queen of the May. Various Neopagan groups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on May 1.
The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of Spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer.
fu the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary's month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this connection, in works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary's head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning.
Fading in popularity since the 1ate 20th century is the giving of
May baskets, small baskets of sweets and/or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbors' doorsteps.
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