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Events & Celebrations

May Day & Maypoles

Dancing ribbons around a Maypole is a relatively modern interpretation of an ancient May Day celebration. National popularity was revived by this late 19th century improvisation, from which Huthwaite school children show use marking another notable occasion.

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May Day

Celtic tribes are believed to have celebrated May 1st as Beltaine, recognising start of their summer season. A Roman spring festival called Floralia would also culminate on that date, hinting likeliest introduction to the British Isles of a farmers holiday. Adorning a central tree with flowery garlands could have been focal point for honouring their goddess Flora. Heathen tree worshippers would have also sought to encourage a fertile summer into the Middle Ages, until Puritans ended up discouraging any of those pagan based rituals.

National jollity was royally restored by following lead to erect very tall poles to encourage community dancing upon many a village green. This reasserted a recognisable tradition for holiday merriment, although not offering any historic suggestion for adults likewise celebrating among this Nottinghamshire region.

Interlacing colour ribbons around a Maypole by choreographed skipping was begun in 1881 by John Ruskin at Whitelands College. He created a series of dances to perform a May Pageant, They were learnt by many future teachers who broadly moved on to teach others in newly established National schools.

Empire Day

Britain kept a May Day Bank holiday, while Maypole performances given by Huthwaite children at the Church of England Common Road School shows revival with a modernised tradition throughout first half the 20th century. Like most christian festivals commonly adopting original pagan rituals, this reveals the incorporated fertility enactment by crowning a May Queen. But the background bunting confirms participants living memory of these displays being held on May 24th, when British pride used to remember Empire Day on the 1819 dated birthday of the past Empress of India, Queen Victoria.

Empire Day

Above is dated May 24th 1946 by my parents patriotic involvement. David Stones recalls 1950 Maypole dancing below on Empire Day, before 1958 political correctness firstly rebadged acceptable representation then given to a British Commonwealth Day.

May Day

14 Nov 11     by Gary Elliott       Updated 24 May 19