Updated: Oct 4
'But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother,
I'm to be Queen o' the May.'
- Alfred Lord Tennyson
The History of May Day
The oldest known May festival was the festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers. It was held in the time of the Roman Republic and was celebrated from 27th April to 3rd May
In the UK the Celtic Fesitval of Beltane is where the May Day origins are thought to originate (The Celtic God Bel meaning ‘Bright one’ and Gaelic word ‘teine’ which meant fire). Beltane was the festival of their marriage meant they made ‘bright fire’ as the sun sat higher in the sky making the beginning of the Celtic Summer. Fires were lit at Beltane celebrations to bring luck, purify and cleanse.
Couples celebrated this union sharing in the fertility of the earth, they often went ’A-Maying’, spending the night in the woods and fields, making love and bringing back lucky hawthorn to grace their homes. Young girls would make crowns from flowers and floral baskets which they would give as gifts, to celebrate the day. The fertile earth was celebrated in the spring as people saw new life, and hope spring up all around them.
Traditional May Day festivals are still celebrated all over the country and still contain many elements of the oldest festivals celebrated, A May Queen, joyous dancing around a May Pole and a Green Man ‘Jack o the Green’ who is thought to be a tradition giving a nod to when our ancestors worshiped trees. May festivals today are often celebrated as a blend of pagan and religious traditions and today Christians often celebrate May, as the month of Our Lady, often crowning a statue of the blessed mother with a ring blossom. A celebration of purity, of fertility and of the light of the world she brought forth
May in our home
May in our home is a joyous month, myself and my daughter celebrate our birthdays in May, as a child I made my Hold Communion in May, and walked on ‘Whit Sunday’ in my White dress and crown of flowers through the streets of my community to Bagpipes and drums. The crowning of our lady at church I have always held close to my heart and as a gardener, May for me is indeed the month when natures fertility becomes so visually clear, flowers and bulbs, vegetables and plants growing with a new vigour showing the promising signs of the abundant harvest they hold.
We made our May crowns today which I will keep in water until Friday to keep them alive (I thought they would be handy to share) we didn’t have florist wire which I usually like to hold the flowers, but ribbon and a little embroidery thread worked perfectly. Here’s how we made them..
What you will need:
Some sticks, the should be able to be thin enough to bend and be able to fit the circumference of the head when made into a circle. If you have sticks which are not fresh cut/fallen, place them in some water tonight so when you are bending them tomorrow they are soft and don’t splinter or break.
Thread or florist wire, to hold the stick in a circle and to attach some flowers.
Ribbon, as much or little as you like.
Fresh flowers or wild flowers from your garden or walk. If you don’t have flowers use some greenery even with berries on!
How to make them
Gather your materials together, light a candle, if you wish play some joyous music in the background. After soaking your sticks you may want to pat them dry. Gently bend and ease the sticks into a ring big enough to comfortably sit on top of the head and secure with florist wire or embroidery thread (if using florist wire you may want to wrap ribbon around it after so it cancels any sharp ends.
Onice tied, tie one end of your ribbon to the back leaving a tail and wrap it around the crown, you want it a little loose to allow you to fit the flower stems through if you have no florist wire. Once done tie the end back to the original tail, making a nice bow and leave some hanging down, trimming to finish.
Now time to add your greenery and flowers, just like an advent wreath, greenery and base flowers first and then blooms last. I didn’t have any wire, but myself and my daughter threaded the stems through the loops of ribbon and where they needed a little extra security we tied with embroidery thread, leave stems long at first as you can always trim them back afterward.
Once you have done the base greens and flowers, add your accent flowers, wire of tie them in, threading them into and amongst the greenery you have done. If you haven’t many flowers, then remember to concentrate on working from the centre front backward, to make the most of what you have. The ribbon tails should be at the centre back of the head.
And that’s it! I will be keeping mine fresh in a cool place in a shallow bowl of water until Friday morning where they should stay quite fresh, we are going to attempt to maypole around the cherry tree in our front garden!
Keep an eye out for my post tomorrow for making a great simple May Day seasonal table. All you will need is a few colours of ribbon, a straight stick and something to hold it upright (play dough/clay/stand of some sort)
Please do tag me in any of your makes I would love to share some May Day fun on Instagram.