The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS -

ce­ment blocks (sim­i­lar to sup­port for a Christ­mas tree) to hold it in place. It is of­ten decorated with flow­ers. Stream­ers or rib­bons hang from the pole at dif­fer­ent lev­els. Young girls, ar­ranged in cir­cles around the pole, hold onto a rib­bon while in­ter­twin­ing and braid­ing, and then un­rav­el­ing as they per­form a cir­cle dance. Most dances are held out­side on the town cen­ter, a town park, but they can be held in a build­ing as well.

The ori­gin of May Day cel­e­bra­tions have pa­gan ori­gins. The pa­gan Druids, of the Bri­tish Isles, on May first, cel­e­brated spring­time fer­til­ity rites, called Beltane. Trees were al­ways a part of pa­gan cel­e­bra­tions of the fer­til­ity of na­ture and used in spring fes­ti­vals.

By the Mid­dle Ages, ev­ery English vil­lage en­joyed May Day cel­e­bra­tions in­volv­ing a May Pole. Vil­lagers would go into the for­est, cut and strip a tree, and set it up on the vil­lage green. This May Pole was decorated with flow­ers and rib­bons. The day in­cluded danc­ing around the May Pole, which was clad in flow­ers and stream­ers. A May Queen was cho­sen, and May bas­kets adorned the front door of the vil­lages.

When the Ro­mans oc­cu­pied the Bri­tish Isles, they even­tu­ally com­bined their fes­ti­val of Flora, god­dess of flow­ers, with the Beltane fes­ti­val. The Ger­man fes­ti­val of Walpur­gis (rites to pro­tect one­self against witch­craft) also co­in­cided with the Beltane fes­ti­val.

May Day fes­tiv­i­ties has be­come an of­fi­cial hol­i­day world­wide, al­though cel­e­brated in dif­fer­ent forms.

Yet, the May 1st cel­e­bra­tions didn’t be­come a prom­i­nent hol­i­day in the U.S. for sev­eral rea­sons. 19th cen­tury work­ers cul­mi­nated their la­bor strikes into the In­ter­a­na­tional Worker’s Day and La­bor Day, on May 1, 1886. The ru­ral spring fes­ti­vals of May Day be­came di­min­ished as Amer­i­cans be­came more and more ur­ban­ized. Also, by 1919, the Soviet Union made May 1st their In­ter­na­tional Day of Worker’s Sol­i­dar­ity (now called Cel­e­bra­tion of Spring and La­bor).

Pres­i­dent Grover Cleve­land, af­ter the Pull­man strike, in 1894, of­fi­cially moved La­bor Day to the 1st Mon­day in Septem­ber. In 1958, at the height of the Cold War, Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower des­ig­nated May 1st as “Law Day.” Amer­i­cans even­tu­ally be­came less in­clined to ac­knowl­edge any­thing on May 1st.

As far as I’m con­cerned, I can’t see why my sis­ter, Anita, at 4 years old, didn’t take me to see the May Pole dance in the 40s. Af­ter all, I was a well-be­haved child! Maybe I’ll get to see one in the fu­ture in our very own Kutz­town Park.

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