What’s it all about?
Deep routed in Celtic traditions, the May Day Bank holiday derives from the Pagan festival of Beltane – the ancient anglicised Galelic festival which celebrates the in-between of the spring equinox and summer solstice.
What does it involve?
The May Day holiday has several well-known traditions. Of course the infamous May Pole that sees dancers skipping around with bells and ribbons. Did you know, these poles were put up in the Germanic Pagan era by villagers as a symbol of peace and community? They originally were made from Birch wood trees and young villagers would dance around to celebrate nature and life. These poles then became a signifier for the May Day holiday, which to this day, sees young dancers skipping round the pole with ribbons.
Other goings on include the crowning of the May Queen, who customarily wears a flowing white dress. She is usually a young girl to signify the youthfulness of spring and starts the May Day parades by walking first, after being crowned with a headband made of flowers, she will then give a speech to start the dancing and festive activities.
There are several traditional dances that take place throughout the May Day celebrations. Of course the most notable of these are the Morris dancers. Dressed in white clothing and wearing waistcoats that are symbolic to the part of the country they are from, with ribbons and bells that are shuck during the dance along with the clashing of poles. These dance groups, often no bigger than 7 – 8, can be seen across England during the May Day celebrations.
Another of the traditional dance groups include our very own Cornish guys, the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss. Their routes date back to the 14th century and mixes the well-known Morris dancers in with different clothing, bluebells, forget-me-nots and cowslips with sycamore twigs instead of poles. Celebrations start the night before May Day at Midnight when the ‘Mayers’ meet outside the Golden Lion Inn in Padstow to sing the night song.
Some fun history facts
The Roman Catholics banned the Pagan celebrations as it went against the blessing of the Virgin Mary, however with the formation of Anglo England, the banishment was soon washed aside and reinstated with Celtic celebrations.
The May Day attire and themes to what we know of today are traditional of medieval times and closely linked to Robin Hood, with songs and performances symbolic of this era nationwide.
It wasn’t until 1978 that the Labour Government introduced the May Day Bank Holiday to the national calendar as it was not seen to be important enough to constitute a national holiday, thank goodness this was changed!
We love May Day Bank holiday
So with such a deep routed Celtic vibe, the May Day holiday has a bigger meaning than you first thought right? Something that is celebrated nationwide and brings communities together to celebrate getting through the winter and seeing in the warmer seasons. Along with dancing and May Poles, there are of course plenty of markets, performances, craft events, food and music all across the country in little towns and villages.
We here in Cornwall are particularly proud of our Celtic routes and you’ll find plenty of May celebrations on going throughout the county. If you are staying with us this May bank holiday, then take a trip to our neighbouring Padstow for a taste of their celebrations. Or if you are staying with us at Newquay View, try a 10 minute drive to Cubert for the Pie and Ale festival this bank holiday weekend. For more drinkie fun and village get togethers, try Bude’s bank holiday beer festival on this weekend, if you are staying at our Bude Holiday resort.