I have a very vague memory of May Baskets and May Day from when I was a young girl in the 1960s. I think I remember making May Baskets at school but I cannot guarantee my memory is accurate. I do not recall ever dancing around a Maypole but that may have been too much of a nod to the pagan celebration of fertility for our Baptist elementary school. Or, maybe I just don’t remember and my sisters will correct me.
Dancing around the Maypole has a long history that seems to have reached its zenith during the Victorian era. In fact, “how to” books, such as May-pole Possibilities published in 1907, provided all sorts of ideas on how to create Maypole patterns on the pole out of the ribbons. Jennifer Cutting, from the Library of Congress’ American Folk Life Center has an interesting lesson–with vintage images and movies– on the traditions of Bringing in the May both here in the States and in the United Kingdom (it gets a little bogged down in the middle when she has to talk about the benefactors, but don’t give in to the temptation to turn it off). Because of the video, I now understand the differences in the kinds of dance used to celebrate May Day.
But, you really want to see children dancing, don’t you? So, without further ado, I bring you Verl Alldredge’s home movies of a May day celebration from the 1950s!