May Day in Manchester

I have a vague memory from childhood of weaving a little basket from strips of paperboard into a square, but it wasn’t Easter. It was closer to summertime and it had something to do with our Catholic Church. I also remember helping to construct a quasi-Maypole and the girls took turns with the streamers.

Was that CCD? Elementary school? Girl Scouts? Who knows. But it is there nagging my mind, a forgotten fragment of a tradition that I wish I could remember more clearly.

I also remember attending at least one parade/march with a lot of labor themes. Again, it is just a fragment of a memory. I do think it may have been in the Homestead cemetery which makes sense.

Both were lost in the mists of my mind as early May became more about appropriating Mexican culture for Cinco de Mayo. avoiding cultural appropriation (and drunkfests) was more important to me than exploring if and how these holidays had any relevance to me.

But now since I’ve been more committed to learning about my family ancestry, I’m curious about the spiritual underpinnings of Mayday traditions many of which are tied to European cultural celebrations of spring.

It can be challenging to explore pre-Christian European traditions without veering into white supremacists or neo-appropriation and ‘fakelore’ traditions. I’m mistrustful of anyone who claims to have purged Christian/Catholic influences from any European based spirituality. That’s improbable if not impossible given the timespan.

What makes more sense to me is taking the Christianity back into the ancient traditions, much like you would take air conditioning, electricity, modern foods and cars. I like the idea of a spring holiday that celebrates a break in planting season and is filled with fun, somewhat whimsical tasks. Leaving baskets of sweets for your neighbors. Dancing with a Maypole to illustrate the lengthening of the summer days. Anonymous gestures for your sweetheart. A day filled with symbols of greens, flowers and nature. Whether crowning a May Queen or the Blessed Mother, it is all the same. What matters and strikes me is that ancient traditions have continued in spite of abolishment efforts.

I’d like to be an apprentice studying my own folklore and traditions. Using Google is not particularly helpful or wise.

So on this May Day, I did not leave a basket of sweets for a neighbor or dance around a Maypole.

Maybe next year?




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