Chapter Twelve: May Day
On the first day of May we celebrate the arrival of spring and warm weather.
Everyone is happy to say goodbye to winter and to welcome spring. Flowers bloom①, leaves grow and baby animals are born in spring.
The May Day② festival originated in the Roman Empire in about 258 BC. It was a festivity in honour of Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring. When the Romans invaded③ Britain the festivity was celebrated by the Britons too.
The ancient Celts celebrated spring the night before May Day. This festival was called Beltane. The Druids made big fires on top of the hills. The Celts sat around the fires and ate, sang songs and danced happily.
In central Scotland Beltane is still an important festival. In the Middle Ages May Day was one of the merriest④ festivities in Britain. People went into the forest after midnight to pick flowers and plants. They returned the next morning and put the leaves and flowers in their hair. There was music, singing and dancing all day.
The most important event of the day was the dance around the Maypole. The most beautiful young woman of the village became the Queen of the May. There were Morris dances too.
In Britain May Day is a public holiday and it is celebrated on the first Monday in May. It is not a public holiday in the United States. In Britain and the United States there are still traditional Maypole dances on May Day. People in costumes dance around the Maypole.
② May Day：五朔节。
The Maypole is decorated with many coloured ribbons. The coloured ribbons represent the sun’s rays① and form a design on the Maypole.
In Britain many people in costumes do Morris dancing on May Day. They dance with bells and handkerchiefs. The tradition probably came from Spain in the 13th century when it was called Moorish dancing.
In the United States most elementary schools celebrate May Day with dances around the Maypole. In some American towns and universities there are May Day festivals. A young woman becomes the May Queen. Music, dancing around the Maypole and games are all part of the festival. There are beautiful floral② decorations everywhere.
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