Then April sighed, and stepped aside
…and along came pretty little May
I’m all for bringing back a simple tradition enjoyed in childhood: May baskets. The ones I remember were paper cones fashioned from construction paper and decorated with ribbons. The ribbons also formed a loop for hanging these very special, flower-filled vessels over a doorknob. When you are five, the bouquets are apt to contain dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace, as well as more legitimate flowers pilfered from the garden. Longevity is rarely an issue. The pleasure comes from stealing, undetected, up to the front door of a favorite aunt, sneaking the “basket” of drooping wildflowers onto the door, ringing the bell and diving for the bushes to secretly watch her face radiate delight when she discovers the tribute. As adults, we might give a thought to the practical matter of making our vessels watertight, but lets not lose sight of the gleeful aspects of secrecy and surprise.
Sweet, simple customs carry none of the freight of the sexiness and even gore of May Day’s pagan origins, when the ripeness of all nature led lads and lassies into a delirium of lust sanctioned by all. The fairest of each sex was duly proclaimed King and Queen of the May, to preside over the revelry (which often included human sacrifice). You can imagine how uncomfortable the puritans were with the mayhem. They did their best to leave it all behind when they came to the New World.
In the late 1800’s labor activists co-opted May Day for their own purposes, with marches and demonstrations sometimes described in the press as “commie” events perpetrated by “wild-eyed agitators”. What’s a neo-puritan like George W. Bush to do? Why, wipe out all traces of carnality and left-leaning sentiment with the stroke of a pen, or course. In 2003, he proclaimed May 1 as Loyalty Day, a time to reaffirm our allegience to our Nation.
Proclamations and cover-ups aside, all you have to do is step outside in the Merry Month of May to feel the stirrings of the earth awakening and be moved to mark the event in some significant way. If a pledge of allegiance is what comes to you, so be it. I myself am more likely to tear off my clothes and roll in the grass.