- May Day
- , Bringing in the MayMany of the earliest references to May Day are ambiguous, but those which give any detail nearly always refer to the practice of going out into the countryside to gather flowers and greenery - 'going a-maying' or 'bringing in the may'. This greenery was used to decorate houses and public buildings to welcome the season, and for the early period this was the archetypal activity of the day (but see also *May Dew and *Maypoles). Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, provides one of the first written references to May Day customs by complaining, c.1240, about priests joining in 'games which they call the bringing-in of May' (Hutton: 226). Although this early reference is an ecclesiastical grumble, medieval May celebrations were often officially sponsored and both churchwardens' and municipal account books regularly include money paid out to support the custom. Similarly, the gatherings could include all levels of society including nobility and even royalty.Against May, Whitsonday, or other time, all the yung men and maides, olde men and wives, run gadding overnight to the woods, groves, hils and mountains, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes; and in the morning, they return, bringing with them birch and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withall ... (Stubbes, 1583: 149).Stubbes was campaigning against the May gathering, but the same custom could be used by writers on the other side as an archetypal joyous community event and a ready-made metaphor for the innocent rural idyll:And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest To feche the floures fressh, and braunch and blome And namely, hawthorn brought both page and gromeWith fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte . . .(The Court of Love, first printed 1561, previously attributed to Chaucer)The bringing in of the May remained a staple of the traditional calendar throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but voices of opposition began to be raised from reforming Protestant quarters from the time of Edward VI (1547-1553) onwards, gathering pace almost year by year. The assault on May Day took many forms, religious, moral, and legal (public order), but the focus of disapproval of the Bringing-in custom was primarily the concern about what unchaperoned young people would be doing in the woods. Stubbes' reformist zeal may have lead him to overstate his case on the moral dangers of May Day:I have heard it credibly reported (and that viva voce) by men of great gravitie and reputation, that of for-tie, threescore, or a hundred maides going to the wood over night, there have scarecely the thirde parte of them returned home againe undefiled (Stubbes, 1583: 149).Robert *Herrick, supporter of rural sports and customs, was happy to admit the amorous possilities involved in 'going a-maying':And some have wept, and woo'd, and plighted troth And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth Many a green-gown has been given Many a kisse, both odde and even Many a glance too has been sent From out the eye, loves firmament ...('Corinna's Going A-Maying', Hesperides, 1648).The 'green gown' was a well-known metaphor for what girls received from lying on the grass with their lovers.Bringing in the May was banned, along with most other traditional customs, in the Commonwealth period, but returned after the Restoration and survived, in gradually dwindling form, until the early 19th century:May-day is still observed at Great Gransden [Cambridgeshire], where the young men, farmers' servants, on their return from going a-Maying, leave a hawthorn branch at every house in the village, singing what they call the Night song. On the evenings of May-day and the 2nd of May, they go round to every house where they had left a branch and sing the May Song ...(Time's Telescope for 1816 p. 130, quoted by Wright and Lones)Its spirit lived on in the children's May garlanding customs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.See also *may: children's garlands and customs, *may dew, *maypoles.■ Hazlitt, 1905: 397-9; Wright and Lones, 1938: ii. 200-7, Hutton, 1996: 226-43.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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May Day — May May, n. [F. Mai, L. Maius; so named in honor of the goddess Maia (Gr. Mai^a), daughter of Atlas and mother of Mercury by Jupiter.] 1. The fifth month of the year, containing thirty one days. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] 2. The early part or… … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
May|day — May Day, the first day of May, often celebrated by crowning a girl honored as the queen of May, dancing around the Maypole, and other festivities. In some parts of the world, labor parades and meetings are held on May Day. May|day «MAY DAY», noun … Useful english dictionary
May Day — n [U and C] the first day of May, when ↑left wing political parties in some countries celebrate, and when people traditionally celebrate the arrival of spring … Dictionary of contemporary English
May Day — May′ Day n. the first day of May variously celebrated with festivities and observances • Etymology: 1225–75 … From formal English to slang
May Day — ► NOUN ▪ 1 May, celebrated as a springtime festival or as a day honouring workers … English terms dictionary
May Day — first of May, mid 15c. Accounts of merrymaking on this date are attested from mid 13c. Synonymous with communist procession from at least 1906. The May Queen seems to be a Victorian re invented tradition … Etymology dictionary
May Day — n. May 1: as a traditional spring festival, often celebrated by dancing around a maypole, crowning a May queen, etc.; as a more recent international labor holiday, observed in many countries by parades, demonstrations, etc … English World dictionary
May Day — May ,Day noun count or uncount May 1st, when people traditionally celebrated the beginning of spring. Many countries have a public holiday on or near this date, in honor of working people … Usage of the words and phrases in modern English
May Day — This article is about the holidays celebrated on May 1. For more information on the labour related holiday, see International Workers Day. For the distress signal, see Mayday. For other uses, see May Day (disambiguation) … Wikipedia
May Day — noun observed in many countries to celebrate the coming of spring; observed in Russia and related countries in honor of labor (Freq. 1) • Syn: ↑First of May, ↑May 1 • Hypernyms: ↑day • Part Holonyms: ↑May * * * … Useful english dictionary
May Day — the first day of May, long celebrated with various festivities, as the crowning of the May queen, dancing around the Maypole, and, in recent years, often marked by labor parades and political demonstrations. [1225 75; ME] * * * In Europe, the day … Universalium