The May Queen

miniature knitted dress
© F H Powell 2019

As is often the case, modern May Day celebrations have their roots in ancient beliefs about spring time and the rebirth of nature. This was also linked to ancient Beltane fertility festivals in which the May Queen married the Green Man. The May Queen today continues the tradition where at May festivals a young village girl, crowned with blossom (sometimes as a bride with a veil) and attended by girls in white dresses can be seen. A garland of flowers completes the symbolism of purity and innocence as she leads the May Day procession. Traditionally, the celebrations include dancing around the May pole, riding Hobby horses and Morris dancing.

The English celebration has its roots with the ancient Celts when May Day marked the start of summer. However, the even earlier the Roman festival of Flora, who was the Goddess of fruit and flowers, was again associated with warmer summer weather. As seed sowing was to be completed by this day farm hands were given a day off to enable them to attend the May Day festivities possibly creating the first public holiday.