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May Day Bank Holiday

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There are two bank holidays in May, one at the beginning of the month and one at the end of the month.  I am going to tell you how the first holiday came about at the beginning of May, and which is also a Public Holiday for many people.  Schools are closed on this day and many businesses.

In England it is called May Day but in Scotland it is called Early May Bank Holiday and is celebrated on the first Monday in May.  Scotland started celebrating the May Day holiday first as far back as 1878, but England did not start to celebrate this holiday until 1971.  I am not sure why.

It originated as a Roman Festival in pagan times, celebrating the beginning of the Summer season.  There are many traditions associated with May Day.

  • Maypole dancing. Girls and children dance around a big pole with long ribbons on it. They each grab the bottom end of the ribbon (The other end is fixed to the top of the pole) and then dance around the pole.  The dancing around the pole with ribbons creates a decorative pattern on the pole.
  • Morris dancing. It is mostly men who participate in this dance.  The men are dressed in white and have bells on their costume so that they make a noise when they dance.  They wear scarves and carry sticks. They dance to loud accordion music.
  • Making garlands with flowers.
  • Decorating houses with flowers and leaves.
  • Crowning a May Queen.  The May Queen is usually crowned with a garland made from flowers. There is usually a parade and a motorised float (decorated transport) that the newly crowned May Day Queen will sit or stand on, and wave at everyone in the crowd as she passes them.

These are some of the traditions on May Day.  I am not sure if any of these are still practised today.  It will all depend on which part of the country that you live in as to how May Day is celebrated.

The first Monday in May is also a day for large marches to celebrate and demand rights for workers. These marches are organized by the trade unions.

There are probably other May Day traditions that I do not know about so if you know of any, please leave a comment below.  Also please leave a comment if you have ever participated in a May Day tradition or celebration.

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