What a … well celebrated day, this May 1st, is!
In Hawaii, May Day, or May 1st, has always been association with celebration. As a matter-of-fact, every year school would have a May Day program where each grade performs something–whether it was a hula or singing or a culture dance. There is a May Day Court where there is a prince and princess for each Hawaiian island (wearing their island color and a lei made up of the island flower), along with their maids and kahili bearers, and a king and queen along with their maids and kahili bearers. Yep, a big deal.
From what I hear (as in oral history), May Day in Hawaii started off as a celebration of Hawaii and its culture, but as Hawaii grew schools couldn’t be bias to just Hawaiian culture and expanded to include all cultures.
I always thought it was pretty cool. In my twelve years of school I’ve done hula, chanting, and even some folk dancing–although I really wanted to learn the May Pole dance, but I moved and changed elementary school before I got a chance (*sad face*). And while I was never popular enough to make it on the royal court in all my twelve years (which, in a way, is a huge relief to me), I was lucky enough to be a narrator … twice! No one really explained why there was a May Day. Aside from the “it’s a celebration of cultures” that was it. I mean, sure, you don’t need a why to throw a huge party, but we took time off from some of our studies to “practice” for May Day and the “why?” always nagged at me. And I guess I was okay with that.
In addition to the traditional May Day program, May 1st in Hawaii is widely known as “May Day is Lei Day” and of course you have people giving leis to everyone in honor of that day. Numerous of lei contests take place on this day and some of the leis are absolutely gorgeous! I’ve never had the pleasure, nor patience nor talent, to participate, but I love admiring the handy work of others. What some of these people can do with flowers are a-maz-ing!
So that’s tradition as it pertains to Hawaii life. I enjoyed May Day programs, if only for the fact that we were excused from school early … most times.
However, in other parts of the world, I realized that May 1st is other things as well. In America, it coincides with International Worker’s Day, even though we moved this day to September and now call it Labor Day in honor of the new regulations pertaining to work, or labor. According to Anthony Aveni’s book, Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays, he mentions that German and Swedish towns had a seasonal passion play where the main script has a mock battle between summer and winter, with summer the victor. There is also ties to Belthane, a warm weather feast which opens the 2nd half of the Celtic year. Aveni defines Belthane as “luck fire.” He mentions that Bel was the god of fire and purification. And in other countries, still, there is a celebration of flowers and vegetation.
Considering all the many festivities surrounding May 1st, it seems to be a signifier of change. A seasonal shift, whether it be spring or summer. A celebration of change.
So, with a quarter of 2014 already behind us we have the summer months to look forward too. And this means high school graduation is right around the corner. And that school will be out for a bit. And that … well, summer is officially beginning!
Happy May Day and Belthane Blessings and whatever else May brings or means to you!