disapproval of what was widely regarded as pagan superstitious nonsense and this led to the destruction of many established maypoles. Fortunately, after the Restoration the tradition was revived.
Under theatrical influences of the nineteenth century, maypoles were decorated with painted stripes, emblems and garlands of flowers. The addition of brightly coloured ribbons led to the popular folkdance still seen today on village greens and in school playgrounds in which two groups of dancers, each holding a ribbon, dance in opposite directions around the pole creating intricate patterns on the pole as they weave in and out.
As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in 'The May Queen' "Of all the glad new year, mother...the maddest merriest day."
May Day has its origins in the Celtic festival of Beltane, which also took place on the first day of May and heralded the beginning of Summer.
In Medieval times it was customary to collect flowering greenery, preferably 'May blossom' (hawthorn), birch or rowan to make May garlands. At sunrise on May morning, the fields and woodlands would be filled with people gathering armfuls of foliage. Young girls were encouraged to wash their faces in May dew as it was said to bring great beauty, a necessary attribute should they wish to be chosen as May Queen to lead the May Day parade.
The centerpiece of May Day events since around the mid-fourteenth century has been the maypole. Thought to symbolize fertility as well as the sacred tree, the maypole was the focal point for the whole community. The rise of Protestantism in the sixteenth century brought
May 1 - May Day
Maypoles and merry making - the 'merry month of may' has arrived!