The first day of the month of May is known as May Day. It is the time of year when warmer weather begins and flowers and trees start to blossom. It is said to be a time of love and romance. It is when people celebrate the coming of summer with lots of different customs that are expressions of joy and hope after a long winter. copyright of protectbritain.com Traditional English May Day celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing around a Maypole.
A traditional dance seen throughout the month of May is Morris Dancing. It is a traditional English form of folkdancing, performed by groups of men or women. Morris Dancing has been danced for hundreds of years, and passed down through the generations in the villages of rural England. The dances are usually performed at festivals such as May Day, Whitsun and Christmas. The Origins of Morris Dancing There are several thoughts to the origins of Morris Dancing. The name may refer to the possibility of the form of dancing coming to England from the Moors of North Africa; or it may have been called 'Moor-ish' simply because the dancers sometimes painted their faces black, and people compared this to the dark-skinned Moors.
The Music The dancing is very lively and accompanied by an accordion player, a melodeon or fiddle player (Cotswolds) or a noisy band with a drum (Border Morris or North West sides)
Costumes Morris dancers wear different clothes depending on the part of the country in which they dance. They are often dressed in white with coloured baldrics (coloured belts) across their chests. Border Morris Dancers generally wear 'tatter jackets' and black their faces - probably originating as a form of disguise.
The Dances There are usually six or eight dancers arranged in two lines or in a circle facing each other. The dancers may carry white handkerchiefs that they shake, or short sticks that they bang against each other as they dance. Some dancers have bell-pads tied at their knees, which make a loud and cheerful rhythm as they dance.
Crowning a May Queen
The May Queen is a girl (usually a teenage girl from a specific school year) who is selected to ride or walk at the front of a parade for May Day celebrations. She wears a white gown to symbolise purity and usually a tiara or crown. Her duty is to begin the May Day celebrations. She is generally crowned by flowers and makes a speech before the dancing begins. Certain age groups dance round a May pole celebrating youth and the spring time. According to popular British folklore, the tradition once had a sinister twist, in that the May Queen was put to death once the festivities were over. The veracity of this belief is difficult to establish, but while in truth it might just be an example of anti-pagan propaganda, frequent associations between May Day rituals, the occult and human sacrifice are still to be found in popular culture today. The Wicker Man, a cult horror film starring Christopher Lee, is a prominent example of this.
Dancing around a Maypole
On May Day, people used to cut down young trees and stick them in the ground in the village to mark the arrival of summer.
People danced around the tree poles in celebration of the end of winter and the start of the fine weather that would allow planting to begin. The end results would be either a beautiful plaited pattern of ribbons round the pole or a tangled cat's cradle, depending on how much rehearsing had been done. Maypoles are still a part of some village life and on May Day the villagers dance around it.