I like to picture the elliptical orbit of our planet around the sun as the very wheel of the year I so often talk about, and maybe that’s not so far-fetched: perhaps that is the very idea from which the the wheel originates. In this circle around the sun, we find ourselves today at the spoke of the wheel opposite where we were at Hallowe’en: there, we were halfway between autumnal equinox and midwinter solstice, and now here we are, halfway between the vernal equinox and the midsummer solstice. It is the cross quarter day known as Beltane, or, more popularly, May Day. It is a time we mostly ignore here in the States, and we are pretty good at that: ignoring sacred days. I am pretty certain it’s yet another loss we can pin on our country’s Puritan roots, for guess what? The Puritans hated May Day as much as they hated Christmas. May poles and floral nosegays, along with Christmas revelry and days of rest: all of these things were not for them. To make matters even worse, May Day in the past century became associated with labor and workers and (gasp) Communism!… so it became even further removed from the American vernacular.
As usual, I feel we are the poorer for this disconnect. May Day celebrates the height of spring, or even (by traditional reckoning of time) the start of summer. It is a time to be outdoors night and day, a time to bring wild blooms indoors (bringing in the May), a time to revel in an awakening earth. Where our thoughts and outlook at the opposite cross quarter day turned downward, beneath the earth, with May Day we emerge and focus our energies on things above the earth: we revel in greenery and flowers and we spend more time outdoors. We enter the gentle time of year, a time of brightness and light and long days in the Northern Hemisphere.
Your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May celebrates this, too. Cover star: a book illustration for May Day by Kate Greenaway, late 19th century. The calendar is a fine companion to this blog; it’s a printable PDF so you can print it and pin it to your bulletin board or stick it on the refrigerator, if you wish. Happy May!