The land of my birth is in a frenzy about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s (aka Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s) royal baby, as well as the recent heatwave on Easter Sunday, when it reached - wait for it - 75 degrees.
On this side of the Atlantic, I am thrilled to once again be in the month of May - it is absolutely my favorite month of the year.
OK, for full disclosure I should say that the month kicks off with my birthday. But as I become older, I don’t worry about getting older but instead think about that I GET to be older, which sure beats the alternative. When I lived in England, May was especially fun as we also enjoyed two public holidays (which the British refer to as “bank holidays” since the banks closing is considered to mean the day is a real holiday).
The first British holiday this month is “May Day,” which takes place on the first Monday of May each year. This is actually the British version of “Labour Day” (spelled the British way with a “u”), which we celebrate here in the U.S. in September.
You may be surprised to learn that the May Day holiday has a great deal of history around it. In Roman times, this was the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring, while the earlier Celts of Ireland and Scotland celebrated the festival of Beltane on 1 May.
This Gaelic festival falls about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice and was often celebrated with bonfires, thought to bring good fortune to cattle, crops and people.
Even today in the U.K., there are parades, maypole dancing, the crowning of the Queen of May, flower picking, pub visits, picnics and a rather strange group called Morris dancers, a beer-drinking team of (predominantly) men who dance a traditional English folk dance while wearing, waving and banging together an odd group of items including bells, handkerchiefs, sticks and swords.
The second public holiday in the U.K. usually coincides with the U.S. Memorial Day weekend at the end of the month but is known as “Whit Monday” or Pentecost Monday. This public holiday takes place on the Monday after Whitsunday (yes, with this unusual spelling) and is also known as Pentecost.
This has its roots in the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.My favorite month of the year is named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants and is also from the Latin word maiores, or “elders,” who were celebrated during this month.
Maia was considered a nurturer and an earth goddess, which may explain the connection with this springtime month. See more at www.almanac. com So, does the term “mayday, mayday,” internationally recognized as an SOS distress signal, have anything to do with the month? Nope. The word is derived from the French “m’aidez,” meaning “help me.”
It was created in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford, who was a radio officer in the early 1920s at Croydon Airport in London. His bosses asked him to come up with a universally understood code for “emergency” that all pilots and ground crew would understand in any language.
So moving back to this most pleasant time of year, I leave you this week with a quote from 20th-century American naturalist, photographer and writer, Edwin Way Teale: “The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” God bless America, and enjoy this beautiful month!