Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
"May Day" has an interesting History, Pagans celebrated it as a day of romp, then Early Christians tried it to get some pomp,then it was banned by a Puritan Parliament for being too Merry then there it was kind of lossed then The Labo(U)r Movement used this day as a rallying cry, now it stumbles along with no real Authoritative backer. In the background the powerless are reigniting this day.The London Trade Council founded in 1860 used this day for organising the "the Work Force"Their History is here for the latest version of may celebrations:-http://www.glatuc.org.uk/history.htmlit evolved from " fun of spring when the sap has risen"http://www.planet.net.au/innovations/may96/mayd...The Puritan Parliament banned May day http://www.mayweek.ab.ca/history.htmlpresent links to Origins and Traditions / from pagan origins to labor movement then to Pagan & Wiccan Traditions of May Day and other facinating sites
Mayday an opinion"...& on Mayday,the greate Procession of the Universitie, & the 'Mulatiers' at st. 'Antonies', & their seting up a foolish May-pole in the Capitol, very ridiculous:" May/ 1/ 1645: John Evelyn Diary
Mayday and Maypoles
The ancient pagan celebrations in Britain focused mostly on bonfires, which were used for ritual cleansing. The maypoles that the Puritans banned cannot be firmly dated in Britain to before the 14th century. Interestingly, the distribution of the May bonfires is only in 'Celtic' territory (Ireland and Scotland, principally), where the maypoles are found in English areas. They do not seem to be pagan in origin. The Puritans were against May Day on the grounds that its celebration was Papist, not founded in the Bible (also their objection to Christmas), and tended to lead to public rowdyness. Charles II would, like his predecessors Henry VIII and Elizabeth, enjoy celebrating the day. He would promenade with his courtiers through Hyde Park. Some ladies of the court would flash their breasts at the lookers-on. (Sounds like Mardi Gras in New Orleans!)
For more information on the history of celebration of May Day in Britain, I recommend Ronald Hutton's "The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain".
A site about Maypoles in England, including a history of them: http://www.maypole2000.freeserve.co.uk
The meaning of Maypoles:http://www.otleymaypole.org.uk/maypole_meaning.htm
[Second link replaced with a Wayback Machine archived version, 1 May 2012. P.G.]
" May pole, Strand " "....The butchers at the May Pole in the Strand rang a peal with their knives when they were going to sacrifice their rump.." Feb 11 diary
May Day in England
It was an established custom for all classes to go a-maying in Hyde Park. The practice was for a time discontinued during the Commonwealth, but about 1654 it was revived, to the disgust of the Puritans.---Wheatley, 1899.
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