The origins of May Day celebrations

Wellow May Queen Celebrations 2017. Dancing round the Maypole. Picture: Chris Etchells
Wellow May Queen Celebrations 2017. Dancing round the Maypole. Picture: Chris Etchells

People have celebrated May Day certainly from the time of the Romans when youths would celebrate the coming of spring with a day of dancing dedicated to the goddess Flora.

During medieval times, May Day became dedicated to Robin Hood and saw songs and plays performed up and down the country to celebrate the coming of spring.

Many May Day celebrations were banned by the church during more puritanical times, due to the pagan origins of the festival.

Some Roman Catholic organisations celebrate the Virgin Mary on May 1, with a ‘May crowning’ of the Blessed Virgin.

I always found it strange that although the Congregational Church was founded on Puritanical basics, at our church we danced round the maypole and crowned the May Queen – the latter done in a special church service.

The queen was chosen from among the scholars in the Sunday School, usually in her mid teens, and represented the church at the Festival of the Queens where they handed over the money collected for ‘Sunny Smiles’.

How many people remember selling pictures of babies from a little book to raise money for the National Children’s Homes?

She also led the church parade with band and banner to the Whit Sings which were a feature of Sheffield life on Whit Monday. I was so proud when it was me!

People tell me that they also danced round the maypole in the old Independent Chapel on the Headland. Did it happen in other churches?

It seems strange that the May Day Holiday was only begun in 1978.

Of course bank holidays now mean organ concerts and St Hilda’s has its usual Bank Holiday Organ Lunchtime Concerts at the beginning and the end of May on the two bank holiday Mondays.

The first is on Monday, May 6, with Christopher Haresnape and the second is on May 27 with Daniel Cook. Tickets are on sale and include the price of lunch. They are £6 and the concerts start at 12.30pm.

A quick run down of May events:

On May 11, St George’s holds its Spring Fair where you can stock up your garden with plants and buy from other stalls.

On the same morning, Grange Road Methodists have a coffee morning in aid of Christian Aid, whose Week is May 12 to 19. Events start at 9,30am and 10am respectively and cost £1 In the evening St Hilda’s hold a special concert by Hartlepool Male Voice Choir in aid of the Brigades’ Camp Appeal. This will be at 7pm. Tickets £5

St Luke’s Plant Sale is on May 25 at 10am. Entry £1 including refreshments, and on Wednesday, May 29, their monthly Cake ‘N’ Cake takes place from 10.30am to 12.30pm. This is free.