Celebrating May Day: Events & Activities

Celebrating May Day in Western MA

May Day has a rich history. Today, a fully celebrated May Day likely includes May baskets filled with flowers, beautifully dressed Morris dancers, and the wrapping of a May pole.

Following Easter, spring’s next basket-centric, color-filled holiday is May Day! Much evolved from its earlier historical and cultural roots, a modern May Day includes baskets full of bright flowers, outdoor folk dancing, and other celebrations of spring. While there is no one event or celebration to which we can trace modern May Day’s roots, there are a handful of possibilities. In Roman times, May Day celebrations praised Chloris, the goddess of the earth and these earliest celebrations inspired similar May Day traditions in cultures for centuries to come. The ancient Celtic festival of Beltane was held on May 1, and celebrated the coming of summer with bonfires and dancing. Germany’s Walpurgisnacht similarly celebrates springtime in a Pagan way, with bonfires and wrapping a may pole.

Today, a fully celebrated May Day likely includes May baskets filled with flowers, beautifully dressed Morris dancers, and the wrapping of a May pole. This year, families have multiple opportunities to experience a true May Day celebration in Western Massachusetts. On Thursday, May 1st at 11am, the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School invites community members to join with students in celebrating with a May pole, Morris dancers, and a picnic! BYO lunch to enjoy on the lawn after dancing and pole-decorating have ended. Also on May 1st is the second ever Florence Night Out, the spring installment of which features a May pole, the Marlboro Morris Men, and the Guided Star Clog Morris Troupe on the Trinity Row Triangle Green at 5pm.

Families with small children can join the Cushman Scott Children’s Center for a May Day celebration from 9-11am on Saturday, May 3rd. Families can enjoy a pancake breakfast, crafts, Morris Dancers, and more – all at the early education center, located at 71 Henry Street.

If you’re not able to make it to a community May Day celebration, create your own family May Day tradition! Work together to make some creative homemade baskets within which to share spring-y surprises. May baskets can be made using all sorts of inexpensive (or free) and eco-friendly materials, like recycled newspapers and magazines, objects found in nature, or ordinary items from your recycling bin – like the lids from bottles of mouthwash! Use May Day as an opportunity to build community by sharing a May basket or other project with neighbors – try doing Hilltown Families’ Flowers for Friends craft, featured at a recent event at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.

To spark children’s enthusiasm for May Day, going for a walk and identifying signs of spring. Choose your favorite spring indicators, and talk about why they’re important to you. All of the things that you see are what May Day celebrates!

For further inspiration, check out some of these fantastic children’s books:

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