The month of May, known as the Merry Month of May, has been celebrated for over 2,000 years as a month of joy, hope, love and romance.
Mayday, the Druids believed, divided the year in half and it was hailed as the first day of summer. They lit fires through which men and their girlfriends jumped for good luck.
It was the Roman Festival of Flora, the goddess of fruit and flowers, from the 28th April-2nd May.
Ancient Babylon apparently had Maypoles woven with ribbons. They were phallic symbols and girls danced round them to encourage fertility.
But some people deny this and say that the beribboned Maypole was invented by John Ruskin in the 19th Century. Perhaps he just re-invented it.
By the Middle Ages every village had a Maypole. Bringing it in from the woods was a great celebration.
Mayday, or Garland Day, celebrated the end of frantic farming after the winter, so it was a convenient day for a holiday and often raucous celebrations. And the celebrations continue through the month in Britain with some unique and eccentric customs.
Young girls would rush outside on May the 1st to wash their faces in dew. It was supposed to give them a lovely complexion and remove freckles and spots.
It was said that ‘Marry in May and you’ll rue the day.’
mayday1Thakeham Morris welcome the sunrise on May the 1st at Chantry Post on top of the South Downs. It’s a very simple affair. It is their first dance of the season. They meet just before sunrise (around 5:30am), then usually perform a few dances in front of a smallish crowd (usually a few relatives, but sometimes supplemented by early morning runners, dog walkers and occasionally surprised van drivers who have spent the night in the car park).
Rochester, Kent, holds their Sweeps Festival, the first weekend in May. It’s a pagan tradition and coincides with the chimney sweeps welcoming the summer so they could clean all the dirty chimneys.
Jack in the Green is woken at dawn and the street’s filled with dancers and musicians.
Whitstable, Kent, revived the Jack in the Green festival in 1976, followed by Hastings in 1983. It’s now a major event.
They also host the Maydayrun, when thousands of bikers travel 89kms from London to Hastings, ending up on the seafront. It’s been held for over 30 years.
Lincolnshire holds their Spalding Flower Festival. Thousands of tulip-covered floats parade through the town.
Derbyshire has several well-dressing ceremonies in the Peak District. It dates back hundreds of years and the true origins have been lost.
mayday3Beating the Bounds dates from the 5th Century. Parishioners asked God to protect their crops. During the Reformation it provided the community with a boundary map.
It’s celebrated now with Ganging Beer and Rammalation biscuits.
In Sussex around this time, it’s Legover Day. (No, it’s not what you’re thinking!) It’s a tradition connected with fell-runners climbing over stiles, walls and streams.
There are a lot of customs connected with cheese.
Early May Bank Holiday Monday is the Stilton Cheese Rolling in Peterborough 10am-3pm. Large round blocks of wood are rolled along the High Street for a prize of Stilton cheese and bottles of port.
Around the 8th May Helston, Cornwall holds their Floral Dance. It’s one of the oldest customs in Britain.
The Minehead Hobby Horse is celebrated.
So is The Padstow Obby Oss in Cornwall, the oldest May Day celebration still taking place. It dates back to the 14th Century. Thousands of people go to see the two famous Hobby Horses, the Old Oss and the Blue Ribbon Oss. Celebrations start at midnight, the night before.
The town’s full of bluebells, forget-me-nots, cowslips and sycamore twigs.
Hasting, Sussex. Hold the Blessing the Sea. It dates back to Medieval times.
29th May
Oak Apple Day, also known as Pinch-Bum Day and Nettle Day, celebrates the triumphant return of Charles II. People used to wear oak apples in their lapels or hats because King Charles was saved from capture by hiding in an oak tree.
If they didn’t, they could be stung with nettles, or kicked and pinched!
Whit Sunday Evening
St Briavels, Gloucestershire. Bread and Cheese Day. After Evensong on Whit Monday, basketfuls of bread and cheese are thrown from a wall near the castle and people in the lane below scramble for them.
Spring Bank Holiday Monday.
mayday4Brockworth, Gloucestershire. 40,000 spectators gather on Cooper’s Hill to watch a 7lb double Gloucester cheese roll down a steep slope, chased by a crowd of running and rolling competitors. The winner gets the cheese.
Tetbury Wool Sack Race. Competitors run up Gumstool Hill with a 60lb sack of wool on their backs.
First Friday after the last Monday. Cotswold Olympick Games. (The spelling’s correct.)
The Shin Kicking Championship.
As the sun sets, white-coat-clad competitors stuff straw down their trousers, ready for the British Shin Kicking Championship.
Entrants grasp each other’s shoulders and try to kick each other’s shins. In mid-kick, they try to throw each other on the ground.
It dates back to the 17th Century.
Wherever you go in Britain in May, weird customs are taking place.
Long may they continue!

The Thakeham Morris Dancers are looking for more dancers and musicians to join their group.
Or you could contact your local group to see if they need any new members.

About Lyn

LYN FUNNELL CV (well, sort of!) Lyn had very successful careers as an Air Hostess, Sales Rep, (she was one of only a couple of women. She beat all the men regularly, becoming the Top Rep in the UK, and 2nd in the world.) And then Catering took over. She did everything from the washing-up, to Silver Service Waitress, and Chef. A few times, she had to cook the meal, dash round the other side and Silver Serve it! In between all this, she wrote as often as she could, building up a reputation as a published short story writer, (Horror and a twist in the tale,) and a Poet. She has appeared as a Performing Poet, and a Demo Chef. Then she discovered the world of the Food & Travel Writer. And that’s what she has continued doing to this day. Her main hobbies are Cookery and entering Competitions. She has won many prizes, including holidays and a moped. She enjoys entering Competitions, submitting her original recipes. She was first in many Competitions, including the Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu, Fruits of France, Bernard Matthews Turkey Recipe, and appeared on BBC’s The One Show Spag Bol contest. She was one of three Finalists, coming 2nd, which makes her Britain’s Spag Bol Queen! Now she runs B-C-ing-U! and loves it! After several years of being messed around by Editors, and having loads of contacts, Lyn formed her own online Magazine, vowing to treat her writers fairly, and to do everything possible to further their careers, publicise their books, etc. She now has a band of excellent regular writers, and the Magazine’s going from strength to strength! Lyn’s online published books; Adverse Camber A collection of my published poems. The First Book of Short Stories The Second Book of Short Stories The Third Book of Short Stories. Many of these stories have been previously published. St Anthony of Padua. The Patron St of the Old. A story of one woman’s terrible ordeal in a Home, and her family’s rescue of her. The Girl Who Watched. A Cuban girl is attacked by an English journalist & what follows! Willy the Whizz & the Wormhole. Suitable for Young Adults, aged 15-95! Get Out Of Debt And Stay Out – Forever! Unsympathetic, hard-hitting, realistic solutions to your problems. All these books are published by Andrews UK Ltd No, I didn’t pay them to Vanity Publish! They’re all available from Amazon, and many other online publishers. LYN FUNNELL.