Monday, May 2, 2011

Our May Day

We had a good May Day. While it should have been a communal celebration we had some family observances and a day of work with some May Games.

Snow is finally gone, and the yard is dry enough to work. When raked, the ground promises green, but the trees still have not displayed the leaf mist of early summer. It is time to force children into work and to bring in the May Games to make it fun.

Speeding the Plow, and the May Games were communal May activities that celebrated feats of agricultural work such as plowing contests among young men. Our May games revolved around contest of making the biggest leaf piles and running baskets of leaves to the chicken coop.

We made a maypole, and the four of us danced and wove and left it there.

After that, a goose dinner from last year's harvest. Laura made a truly sumptuous May Day feast of roast goose, corn, and stuffed mushrooms.

lastly we jumped the fire, split the fire into two pieces, and drove the livestock (in our case a dog and some chickens) between them.

In all a glorious and exhausting start to summer.

But that's not all, for the May games continue at the end of the week as we have plow day for the local antique tractor association (to feed my inner steampunk), and our school's May Fair to attend on Saturday. More on that when we get there.

May Day | Beltaine | First Day of Summer

Ah the cross quarter days. I think I like them more than the quarters. Heresy I know, but it's true. Quarter days are mostly astronomical events in my book. But the cross quarter days are the true boundary periods. The greater festivals, the times of magic, the swings of light and dark have more than tipped, they are now obvious.

In the Western church it is the feasts of St. James the Just, St. Philip.

In the Eastern Church no less than the Prophet Jeremiah is commemorated.

In secular terms those of a left leaning persuasion might know of it as International Workers' Day. Originally a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago. It became a special day for workers, labor unions, socialists, and communists around the world. And since 1955 the Roman Church has dedicated it as the feast of St. Joseph the Worker (highlighting the status of our Lord's earthly father as patron of workers, craftsmen, immigrants and people fighting communism.)

It is, by the old reckoning, the first day of summer. Although leaves are not yet evident on the trees here, I prefer it that way.

And of course it is Beltane. The opposite of Samhain, it is a time of a thinned veil between the worlds, when good spirits are more likely to be about. A time for purification and preparation for the long good work of summer.

And finally in Germanic countries, May Day, time for the May Pole and May games. The May pole with it's panGermanic use is one of the few truly pre-Christian holdouts that I will admit without a fight.

A time chock full of meaning from all over.