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May Day 2022

A beautiful spring-time tradition with long history


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May Day (also called Early May Bank Holiday, May Day Bank Holiday, or Spring Bank Holiday) is an official public holiday in the UK celebrated on the first Monday in May since 1978. However, this holiday existed since ancient times and was celebrated with parades, Maypole dancing, Morris Dancing, Queen of May crowning and other fun activities. The earliest historical records of May Day celebrations in the UK date back to 14th century. A Welsh poet Gryffydd ap Adda ap Dafydd described how people used a tall birch pole in Llanidloes. Evidence shows that by 1400 the tradition was quite common for southern Britain, in Welsh-speaking and English-speaking areas.

Today, the most colourful Mayday dancing around the permanent Maypole can be observed in Offenham, Worcestershire. Offenham has an unusually complex dance tradition that is still performed every year. The village has a 20-m (64-ft) May Pole, one of the tallest in the country. In addition to May Day, the Offenham holds morris dancing and the crowning of the Queen of the May every year on May Day holiday.

Wheatley in Oxfordshire also has annual May Pole and Morris dancing. Many villages and towns in England erect their own May Poles on the eve of the holiday and decorate them with ribbons and flowers. Schoolchildren practice May Pole dancing to show off their skills during the holiday.

Morris dance is another May Day English folk tradition. It consists of rhythmic steps and the choreographed figures by dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins as well as sticks, swords or handkerchiefs. Dancers are dressed in white clap sticks, holding swords, or handkerchiefs during the dance.

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