GratiTuesday: May Day

I don’t know if it’s still done, but I have happy elementary school memories of making construction paper May Day baskets and dancing around the maypole on the school playground. Even though spring officially begins in March, it didn’t feel like it had really arrived until the first of May, when we all dressed up, performed the folk dances we learned, and wound the brightly colored ribbons around the maypole.

This winter has been especially challenging for many of you, and spring never really made an appearance until just recently. Many have written about the relief they are feeling to say goodbye to April’s snow and sleet, and welcome to May’s warmer temperatures.

In our corner of the U.S., we’ve experienced quite the opposite. Both winter and spring temperatures have been warmer than average and the little rainfall we received has been especially disappointing. In fact, it looks like we may be in the middle of the driest rainy season on record. Ironically, local meteorologists are predicting a 50% chance of rain starting this evening and into tomorrow. After that, zilch for the foreseeable future.

Despite the unusual weather we’ve been experiencing just about everywhere (or, maybe it’s the new normal we all need to get used to), I love the promise of May. Maypoles may be a relic of the past in most places but the warming weather, longer daylight hours, and emerging flora and fauna still make me want to do a little dance of gratitude to Mother Nature.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

89 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: May Day”

  1. We made construction paper May Day baskets in Elementary School as well. I LOVED those.
    Great post.
    Happy Spring!!

    1. I was talking to my nail tech today about whether or not she remembered them (she also grew up in this area and is just a year or so older than I am) and she did! Although she said that her daughter (also in this area) didn’t make the baskets or have a maypole in school. I guess times change 🙂

      1. Just the other day I was telling my daughter the story of our Maypole dances – again. I grew up in NYC and I looked forward to getting out there and dancing with the ribbons in the warm sun. So glad you brought it up. I was told they were stopped by the city schools because it was a pagan ritual… and what isn’t?

  2. Happy spring, Janis! We have warm temperatures and sunshine this week so I’m doing a little dance of gratitude to Mother Nature as well.

  3. OMG! Yesssss, the May Day dance around the Maypole! I was thinking about it this morning. For us, it was in Junior High, 7th to 10th grades. We learned the folk dances in the gym. Our costumes looked a bit Dutch and we decorated the Maypole with different colored crepe paper for each girl. Our baskets were made out of construction paper and crepe paper, and a ton of glue! Then we performed for the school and parents.

    And you’re absolutely right, spring hasn’t sprung until May! It seems to have finally reached our region. The flowers are so pretty, especially the ‘shrimp’ colored ones. I’ve never seen anything like them.

    I hope Mother Nature is feeling kindly and graces your area with sufficient rainfall to nurture those gorgeous plants.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    1. It sounds like you had a similar May Day experience growing up (albeit in junior high rather than elementary school). We received some rain overnight, which is wonderful! Not enough to make up for the deficit, but welcomed nonetheless. Aren’t those grevillea flowers amazing? They come in several varieties… each with unusually-shaped flowers. Best of all, they are drought tolerant.

  4. For me, spring is a time of renewal and hope! It must be my prairie farming background, but it always seems to me like we have another chance at doing better! But you are right, weather has been different everywhere, and we don’t really know what to expect this year. So far, it’s been cold and wet here, but finally warmer…so I’m going out, to play in the garden!

    1. I think the garden is calling many of us. Even though we’ve planted ours mostly with succulents and other low maintenance plants, there is always something to do. Enjoy your warmer weather and the renewal and hope of spring!

  5. I remember construction paper May Day projects and dances around the maypole to celebrate Spring with fond memories as well. Nowadays, it is just another day, unless you get 85 degrees like we did today. But the tradition we had is long gone unfortunately. Look at your beautiful flowers – I so envious of the beautiful blooms you are enjoying already – it will be months until we see such beauty.

    1. It’s too bad that traditions like that are going away but I imagine modern schools are a bit strapped for cash so those “frivolous” activities are the first to go. Wow, 85 degrees! Funny how here in “sunny” Southern California, we are the ones who are now experiencing cold and rainy weather (but, we are happy to have the rain!).

      1. It is too bad because they were such fun activities. Even remembering activities as kids like cutting out paper snowflakes and lining them up along the classroom windows … I think the kids have their computers or devices now for entertainment and are missing out a big chunk of old-fashioned childhood fun.

        Our weather is abnormal right now – we are ripe for some thunderstorms that are rolling in at 8:00 p.m. tonight and two solid days of stormy weather (possibly severe tomorrow) … that is because of the sudden heat wave. Sunday we were 20 degrees below average – yesterday and today we are 20 degrees above average! After your long drought and those horrible wildfires in California, I think that forevermore, no matter how much rain you get there, residents of your state will never complain about rainy weather again.

  6. Spring arrived today right on cue for May 1st. It’s been a glorious day and it seems like you can practically see things growing.

    This weirding weather alarms me – especially areas like yours that are overly dry and need more rain that’s likely not to come.
    In the meantime, let’s celebrate May for all her glory 🙂

    1. Several commenters have said that May 1 brought them sudden warm weather so I assume you all must be around the same general area. The weird weather alarms me too. I heard a story on NPR this morning about the drought in New Mexico and how the Rio Grande is evaporating quickly in some areas. Fortunately, we received some rain last night so our plants are very happy, as am I.

      1. This whole climate change thing has me very alarmed. It seems we are seeing changes with greater frequency and greater intensity. None of that bodes well.

        Glad you’ve received some rain. I know you need it in your part of the world.
        Wishing you days of gentle rain whenever you need it!

  7. Enjoy your spring time Janis. We’re leaving our beautiful autumn behind and heading to the UK for time with my daughter so I’ll get two spring seasons this year and hopefully I’ll avoid the worst of the winter while we’re away!! #mlstl

  8. With temperatures predicted to be close to 90 by Friday, I think we’ve skipped spring and have gone straight to summer. Who cares! It’s nice a warm! Enjoy!

    1. Several people have mentioned this abrupt change… that’s nuts! Enjoy your summer weather, but don’t put away your warm coats… as crazy as the weather has been, it’s bound to change back. Yikes!

  9. I’m an Aussie like Sue and we don’t do Maypoles or baskets (I think we’re missing out!) but she’s right about Autumn being warmer for longer – it’s a balmy day today and Winter seems a lot longer than 4 weeks away. I guess your Summer will eventually arrive at the same time our Winter rains and colder temps settle in for a visit.

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx
    Leanne |

  10. I grew up here in Ontario, where I think Donna did, and we never once did a thing to celebrate May Day. It must have been a practice that was specific to particular teachers or schools. Not to say that I wouldn’t have liked to. I remember reading a book where kids were dancing around a maypole and thinking it looked so colourful, fun and free. Hopefully May will be all of those things, with or without the pole.
    I hope your 50% prediction of rain turns into a sure thing, Janis, and that it’s a long, deep dousing.

    1. The rain came last night! That may be it for a while but we appreciate anything we get. I think a maypole would look beautiful in your yard. Just invite some friends to join you in the dancing and festivities. Your dogs will think you’re nuts, but that’s OK 🙂

  11. I’ve heard of Maypoles but don’t recall ever doing them. Might have been a more regional thing (I grew up outside of New York City). But the longer days and warmer temps (we had a glorious sunny high of 80 yesterday) are making me happy. Opening the windows to the breeze. Trees in bloom. We can still get another frost, so another week before planting things…I like to get my hands in the dirt this time of year. Yup, doing a little dance myself.

    1. I’m glad that your weather is making you do a happy dance too! Ours went in the other direction (warm and sunny to cool and rainy) but we needed the moisture, so that’s OK. You are smart to hold off planting… as unpredictable as the weather has been, who knows what will happen in the next few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy your warmth.

    2. We danced Maypole in the City in elementary school. I believe each borough had one in the parks. We danced in Prospect Park.

  12. May Day was something characters in novels celebrated…and it looked like fun.
    And then when I married into my hubby’s family, May 1st was first and foremost my mother-in-law’s birthday!

  13. I don’t remember maypoles so much, but we always made may baskets, filled them with flowers and candy, went to a neighbor’s house, rang the bell and then left the basket and ran. Such a wonderful tradition, I’m not sure if it was just the Midwest. I haven’t talked with anyone else who did this. I love May and Spring because it brings the promise of warm weather and lots of outdoor activities.

    1. Apparently, the tradition of leaving the baskets anonymously is part of the May Day celebrations. I don’t remember what we did with ours once we made them but we probably just brought them home and gave them to our parents. I bet you have some great hikes all planned out for the warmer weather. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go!

  14. What’s not to love about San Diego, this time of the year, and probably all times of the year? Sorry to hear about the dry winter. Similar conditions here in New Mexico. Mark and I haven’t seen rain in the ten weeks we’ve been here. Each time there is rain predicted in the forecast, it materializes as nothing or a few drops. The winds, however, have been present daily, which is more than usually as well. No fun to be outdoors.

    I have always liked May, for the reasons you describe, and because it signaled the end of the school year. In Belgium, we have quite a few holidays in May that become five-day weekends. Not here, unfortunately.

    Enjoy May! We’ll try to do the same. 🙂

    1. We also get the rain forecast, that nothing happens (or just enough mist to dirty the windows and our cars). We did get rain last night, though! Wind can be nasty, I think I’d be tempted to wind a scarf around my head and face before I went out. I hope it goes away soon so you can enjoy that beautiful area.

  15. May is a good month here because it has two public holidays! May Day (first Monday, not actually the 1st) and the Queen’s Birthday, which in this case is Victoria, on the last Monday. Even now I’m not working, it’s still good because John will be off.

    1. May Day is a workers’ holiday in many areas… and I think a banking holiday (on the first Monday) in the UK, right? How nice that the Queen’s Birthday is a holiday… but I wonder, why Victoria? Is any other King or Queen so honored?

      1. I don’t know, it’s odd! I always knew it as Spring Bank Holiday until my last job referred to it as the Queen’s Birthday. I’ve just googled it and it seems to be just a Scottish and Canadian thing

  16. The weather here in Columbus Oh has been crazy. We had frost on Sunday night but by Tue it was in the 80’s and again today it is 83. I am well ready for summer. We did Maypole’s when I was in grade school.

  17. I hope you get rain soon! But yes, when I was young we did celebrate with a Maypole, and also with putting baskets of flowers on people’s doors. My niece just posted a few photos of her children doing that in her neighborhood, so I guess the tradition lives on.

    1. Good to know the tradition lives on in some places. It seems so joyful and innocent. I’m not sure why they don’t do it around here anymore (at least in the schools)… maybe dancing around the maypole was a bit too pagan for some??

      1. I moved away from where I grew up and when I asked about it, that’s what I was told. The public schools didn’t sponsor the dances any more because it was a pagan ritual… shrug. I loved it.

  18. I fear you’re right that the weather patterns of the past few years are the new normal. But then I live in a state where we’re not allowed to use the words “global” and “warming” in proximity to one another. So officially, you’re just wrong about that! 🙂 – Marty

  19. Ah yes, May Day. We weaved paper baskets in grammar school. I went to Catholic School, so May is also Mary’s Month. We celebrated her too.
    I love the longer days and warmer weather, May brings. And Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day.
    Busy Month

  20. Ya know, I didn’t even think of May day and May 1st approached. I know, I’m terrible. However, I did think about all the beautiful flowers that would be blooming more frequently now that May and warmer weather is here. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. It’s easy to lose track, especially when the weather is fairly temperate year-round, like where I live. But, there is something special about May. Enjoy your warmer weather… and don’t forget to do a little happy dance for Mother Nature 🙂

  21. I’m still not quite into the spring groove here. We’re about a month behind on chores and plantings, so I have entirely missed the joy that usually comes with seeing May 1 on the calendar. Plus because of the weather we still don’t have our screened-in porch set up for summer. I cannot rest happy until I can lollygag leisurely out there. I’m sure you understand.

    1. I have great affection for lollygagging! I also adore screen-in porches – we don’t have them around here (no bugs and very little warm summer rain), but I have enjoyed sitting in them when visiting friends and relatives in the mid-west and east coasts. Good luck with your chores… there is much summer lollygagging that needs doing.

  22. As a child, I’d never even HEARD of May Day. But I loved the fact that my children’s school in CA celebrated, and every year, my daughter wore a fancy dress to elementary school, and danced around a beautiful May Pole. Great memories.
    Yes, our NE winter was really tough. Suddenly, it turned to summer this week. This afternoon I sat on our rocking chair porch and smelled the rain coming, heard the tree branches moving in warning, and then wham, a huge down pour. It was magnificent. This is what I wish for you. xo

    1. I’m not sure if a true downpour is in our foreseeable future but we did get a little rain, which was nice. Not a cloud in the sky today, though, so that may be it for a while. I’m glad that your children got to have May Day festivities… they were so much fun!

  23. Happy May Day back to you, Janis! The public waldorf school nearby is having a May festival in two weeks. Sounds cool! I never did understand the May pole and the ribbons, but I recall fuzzily doing some thing back in the 60s for the event! We had a dry winter up here but a miracle March brought plenty of water to the reservoirs.

    1. I’m sure the pole and ribbons started out as part of a pagan ritual, like many things, and then it was incorporated into a “modern” celebration. I’m glad you had rain in March, I don’t think there was much down here. I have to admit that it’s a bit worrisome.

  24. I remember May Day celebrations when I was a child, but you don’t hear much about it now. I am grateful for spring–the beautiful flowers, the sound of the birds in the morning, the feeling of newness. Happy spring!

  25. I remember May Day celebrations, but I haven’t seen one in a long time.

    Spring seems to have arrived, but temps this week shot up into the 90s and that was not welcome. I think we’re supposed to settle down into the 70s this weekend. We’ve had some rain, but probably could use more.

  26. Hey Janis! How are you? I’ll bet it was downright chilly in San Diego this last week because we’ve been quite cool here in the desert. But watch out! Next week the heat will be back with a vengeance. Meanwhile I was wondering if you’d made travel plans to visit Mexico lately. One of these days we’ll have to get together again and talk about our trip down Baja. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to heading to Ventura next month to visit the cool! Hope to see you again soon. ~Kathy

    1. It was cool for a few days (when it seemed that everywhere else was hot) but now it’s lovely again! I’d love to meet-up and talk about your recent trip and ours to San Miguel coming up. Enjoy Ventura!

  27. Spring is my favorite season andI finally got to experience it! For the first time in years…given the tropical climate in Sri Lanka! In Paris! Blissful…

    Love the watercolor and the photos. Enjoy!


  28. Janis, enjoy the May weather. I do worry about your forest fire season with less spring precipitation. Take care, Keith

  29. I grew up in northern British Columbia, and we did not celebrate May Day, although I remember reading about it in storybooks and thinking that it would be fun. As Anabel mentioned, our big celebration in May is/was Victoria Day on the 24th of May weekend (celebrating the Queen’s birthday). Victoria Day is the long weekend that marks the date that parks open for camping and ferries and tourist destinations begin their summer schedules. In northern BC, invariably it was around Victoria Day that the new leaves opened on the deciduous trees, and it was also the weekend that people put in their vegetable gardens.


  30. We avoided winter this year by traveling to Mexico and southern Europe. I can’t say I missed the arctic air, frigid mountain winds, and icy sidewalks. We just got home this week, the garden is in full bloom, and my reader is full of great posts to catch up on. Happy summer!

      1. Thanks, Janis! This fall we are planning to continue our month-at-a-time travels in Spain. We intend to spend full months in Catalunya, the Basque Country, and Madrid. It should be beautiful, fun, and very educational.

          1. Yes! We really enjoyed Portugal, but have several places in Spain to visit first. We are thinking maybe three months in Portugal next fall (2019). Thanks for asking!

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