May Day greetings from H&D – “Sumer is icumen in!”

In England as in many other European countries, May Day has been a traditional celebration for centuries. Appropriated by the political left in the late 19th century, the day in fact has no connection to Marxist socialism. The documented history of the festival goes back to the Roman holiday of Floralia, honouring the goddess of flowers, fertility and spring, and its pagan roots go back even further.

At 6 am this morning in Oxford, for example, the Choir of Magdalen College greeted the new season atop the college tower, while thousands of revellers assembled in the streets below. This tradition dates back to 1509, and ‘Sumer is icumen in’, sung by the choir in the video above, dates from the mid-13th century.

Meanwhile many Europeans today celebrated the traditional pagan festival of Beltane, linked to the Celtic god of fire.

In the UK and several other countries the festival is associated with the Maypole and traditional dancing. The famous dances involving intricate patterns of ribbons originated in Wales in the mid-14th century.

H&D sends May Day (or for our Welsh readers Calan Haf) greetings to all our comrades worldwide.

May Day at Stonehenge

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