May 1st: the official return of spring

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It may not seem like it at the moment, but Tuesday 1st May heralds the official return of spring. Each year, the UK Bank Holiday falls on the first Monday of May, so this year we’ll celebrate our ‘May Day’ holiday on 7th May.

The origins of our celebration go back to medieval times. It probably originally heralded the start of the farming year proper, and celebrations originally included gathering green branches such as pussy willow, and armfuls of wild flowers to weave garlands. A May king and queen were crowned with flowers, and the highlight was a May tree or pole, also decorated with flowers, which formed a centrepiece for dancing. The original festivals may have been designed to encourage a fruitful year ahead for crops, but versions of the May Day festival can still be found in towns and villages across the UK. May queens are often still crowned as well, although the May king seems to have taken a back seat these days!

A May Day tradition that has largely died out is the belief that washing your face in dew at dawn on the morning of 1st May was a surefire beauty treatment. Another that’s still going is morris dancing – a type of folk dancing performed to usher in the seasons. 

May Day celebrations are largely a UK tradition, and were banned in the USA by the Puritans in the belief that they were pagan. American has never really celebrated May Day as the return of spring, but associates it with International Workers Day and the labour movement instead. 

However you plan to spend your May Day Bank Holiday, a family walk and a great lunch must be high on most people’s lists! Come and see us at the Swettenham Arms and enjoy a great day out. We’ve got two lovely beer gardens, and we also welcome dogs and muddy boots in our stone-flagged bar area. 

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