Saturday, 8 June 2013

Dancing around the Maypole

Pic from 1918 Dorset
With this beautiful weather it has reminded me of the fun we used to have at school 
practicing for the Maypole dancing, this is the sort of weather we used to have in May! 
Every year it was held in the small town square where I lived, we all dressed up in our 
best dresses and little white socks then set to weaving intricate patterns with the ribbons. 
How we didn't get into terrible tangles I don't know, but we managed it!
The custom has unfortunately died out in the town, the maypole hasn't seen the light of 
day for many years now.
May Day was always a great occasion, the first day of the Celtic summer ( didn't the 
summers always seem better when we were children) and the major festival of rural 
England; deeply rooted in pagan fertility.
Traditionally started with the whole village bringing in the May, a phrase which 
encompassed the the month and the hawthorn blossom which was used to deck 
their houses and  welcome in the summer.
After the day full of merrymaking with the maypole dancing and rural sports, bonfires 
would be lit and the music and dancing would begin, and I'm sure much ale and cider 
would have been quaffed!
The maypole itself was usually made from a straight piece of ash, pine or larch and 
after the festivities would have been recycled either as beams or ladders.
 Of course the maypole was hated by the puritans, calling it
' this stinking ydol' and was banned! But with the return of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II, 
it was revived.
The May Queen  accompanied by the May King, or Green Man would dance around the 
pole, starting the festivities.
Posy of flowers mixed with Hawthorn blossom were carried around the village in a
 procession by the children. Muslin draped over the garland was removed only after a 
donation by the householder, they would continue for miles around the cottages, farms 
and the 'big house'.
In some areas May Day was also known as Garland Day.

'Good Morning, missus and master,
I wish you a happy day,
Please to smell my garland
Because it's first of May.'

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