Dates for your diary

IMPORTANT DATES FOR YOUR DIARY 

High Days & Holy Days for MAY 2019

1                      May Day
1                      Philip the Apostle/James the Less
2                      Athanasius
8                      Julian of Norwich
9                      Pachomius
10                    Comgall
14                    Matthias the Apostle – called by lots
16                    Caroline Chisholm
19                    Dunstan
21                    Helena, Protector of the Holy Places
24                    John and Charles Wesley
26                    Augustine of Canterbury
26                    Rogation Sunday (the Sunday before Ascension)
30                    The Ascension
30                    Joan of Arc
31                    Visit BV Mary to Elizabeth 

1st May – May Day: unbridled merriment

May is the month when the ancient pagans used to get up to ‘all sorts’!  The Romans held their festival to honour the mother-goddess Maia, goddess of nature and growth.  (May is named after her.)  The early Celts celebrated the feast of Beltane, in honour of the sun god, Beli.

For centuries in ‘Olde England’ the people went mad in May.  After the hardship of winter, and hunger of early Spring, May was a time of indulgence and unbridled merriment. One Philip Stubbes, writing in 1583, was scandalised: ‘for what kissing and bussing, what smooching and slabbering one of another, is not practised?’

Henry VIII went ‘maying’ on many occasions. Then folk would stay out all night in the dark rain-warm thickets and return in the morning for dancing on the green around the May pole, archery, vaulting, wrestling, and evening bonfires.

The Protestant reformers took a strong stand against May Day – and in 1644 May Day was abolished altogether.  Many May poles came down – only to go up again at the Restoration, when the first May Day of King Charles’s reign was ‘the happiest Mayday that hath been many a year in England’, according to Pepys.

May Day to most people today brings vague folk memories of a young Queen of the May decorated with garlands and streamers and flowers, a May Pole to weave, Morris dancing, and the intricacies of well dressing at Tissington in Derbyshire.

May Day is a medley of natural themes such as sunrise, the advent of summer, growth in nature, and – since 1833 – Robert Owen’s vision of a millennium in the future, beginning on May Day, when there would be no more poverty, injustice or cruelty, but harmony and friendship.  This is why, in modern times, May Day has become Labour Day, which honours the dignity of workers.  And until recently, in communist countries May Day processions were in honour of the achievement of Marxism.

There has never been a Christian content to May Day, but nevertheless there is the well-known 6 am service on the top of Magdalen Tower at Oxford where a choir sings in the dawn of May Day.