Today is May 1st - it’s May day! Let’s talk about it. You probably know about May day’s links to the historical workers’ rights movements and Labour Day, but what about its happier, earlier beginnings?


May day was originally a pagan holiday, with links to Beltane, Floralia and other festivals to mark the beginning of summer and the midpoint of the summer solstice and the spring equinox. It is still celebrated as such in some parts of Europe, though it is now mainly associated with the workers’ rights movement.


Beltane or Bealtaine celebrate the start of summer, and dates back to ancient Celtic/Gaelic beliefs. It focuses on the casting off of darkness and celebration of light and fertility of life and creativity. It is most famous for its fiery events, that involved lighting a giant bonfire now and in the past. Along with the other festival, Floralia, they are both celebrated to some degree even today. 


Floralia is a festival dedicated to the ancient Roman goddess Flora, their deity of flowers and fertility. In some depictions, she had the power to make nature and also humans more fertile. Because of the timing of the holiday, the festival is also tied to Dionysus, the god of wine, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love and lust.


May day traditions now incorporate elements of both of these festivals, though still have some unique aspects. For example, the origins of the popular maypole are unknown, despite its widespread fame. It is theorised that the maypole symbolised flowering male fertility, while the baskets and wreaths symbolised female fertility.