The Simple Things
As the promise of summer gets ever nearer, May sees spring in all its glory. Holidays, bird song and the countryside in bloom are just some of the things to celebrate, says Lia Leendertz
In May, the countryside is suddenly all growth and abundant floral froth: cow parsley, apple blossom, fat dandelions, hawthorn and bluebells, and, of course, the birds all singing their hearts out. It’s a glorious time of year, with all the good stuff ahead of us, and quite a bit of it already here.
This is also the month of two bank holidays – the first is rooted in May Day, but the origins of the second are less well known. It used to be attached to Whitsun, once the most important holiday of the year for working people. It was traditional for the whole week to be given off, for Whitsuntide fêtes, Morris dancing, village walks and visits to the races.
There are plenty of foods associated with Whitsuntide, including milk, cream and gooseberries – available in bucketloads at this time of year – as well as lots of cakes and buns for eating at the various picnics and fairs. Being a moveable feast (Whitsun falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter), the Whitsun Bank Holiday was lost in favour of the Spring Bank Holiday in 1971 and since then it has rather faded from our imaginations. Many secular traditions then switched to the
Spring Bank Holiday, which falls this year on
31 May, but if you want to revive a bit of Whitsun cooking, then the date to celebrate is 23 May. »