Traditionally May Day marked the end of winter, an occasion for celebration and decoration: floral garlands, a house filled with flowers and greenery, a time for renewal and fertility festivals. Across England it is the time for Maypole and Morris dancing, village parties and the crowning of a May queen to celebrate Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers and spring. In some areas, the girls would get up early so they could wash their faces in the morning dew, which was supposed to enhance their beauty in the coming year.
In Rochester, a festival of chimney sweeps marks what would have been their only day off in the year, hinting at a more serious purpose for May Day gatherings across Europe, America and further afield. May 1st is an important day for international workers, a day for protest and for marches addressing labour issues, overlong hours, equal pay and other workers’ rights.
We’ve picked some May Day flowers to celebrate youth, revival, the fresh blush of Spring and new beginnings.