Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yelling “May Day” is not an international signal of distress and other information you may wish to tuck away for future reference

[Editor’s note. From the archives, here is my post of May 1, 2009. --RWP]

Everything you ever wanted to know about May Day but were afraid to ask

Here is a photo taken in 1907 of May Day festivities in Maryland.


More information about May Day than you ever thought possible can be found in this article from Wikipedia, including May Day’s relationship to Walpurgis Night and Morris dancing and the May Queen and the Maypole (not to be confused with the Walpole) and even International Workers’ Day.

For example, what happens in Finland? “In Finland, Walpurgis Night is, along with New Year’s Eve and Midsommar, the biggest carnival-style festivity, taking place in the streets of Finland’s towns and cities. The celebration is typically centered on plentiful use of sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages ... From the end of the 19th century, this traditional upper class feast has been co-opted by students attending university, already having received their student cap. In the capital Helsinki and its surrounding region, [activities] include the capping (on April 30 at 6 pm) of the Havis Amanda, a nude female statue in Helsinki, and the biannually alternating publications of ribald matter called Äpy and Julkku by students of the University of Technology. Both are sophomoric...”

One can only assume the article means both publications of ribald matter, not both students of Finland’s University of Technology.

In Scotland, at St. Andrews, some of the students gather on the beach late on April 30 and run into the North Sea at sunrise on May Day, occasionally naked. This is accompanied by torchlit processions and much elated celebration.

In Hawaii, May Day is also known as Lei Day.

If you read too far in that Wikipedia artile, you will learn of many lewd and lascivious connotations surrounding the celebrations of May Day as well, but I’m not going to help you find them. You’ll have to ferret them out for yourself. Instead, I leave you with this example of Morris dancing.


It must have been really difficult to find six men named Morris.

Note. It is also noteworthy to note that yelling “May Day” is not an international signal of distress. Yelling “m’aidez” (“help me” in French) is an international signal of distress.

(end of original post)

P.S. -- The Wikipedia article on May Day has changed somewhat in the four years since this post was originally published. For example, just today I found this fascinating new paragraph:

“In Oxford, it is traditional for May Morning revellers to gather below the Great Tower of Magdalen College at 6:00 am to listen to the college choir sing traditional madrigals as a conclusion to the previous night’s celebrations. It is then thought to be traditional for some people to jump off Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell. However this has actually only been fashionable since the 1970s, possibly due to the presence of TV cameras. In recent years, the bridge has been closed on May 1 to prevent people from jumping, as the water under the bridge is only 2 feet (61 cm) deep and jumping from the bridge has resulted in serious injury in the past. There are still people who insist on climbing the barriers and leaping into the water, causing themselves injury.”

...which only goes to prove, kiddies, that you can lead the rear end of a horse to water, but you can’t make him sink.

5 comments:

Snowbrush said...

I just want to know why the trees are leafless in May in Maryland.

I don't know why you care about holidays, but I'm glad you do. Such knowledge is worth preserving, I'm sure, but I had rather brood about heavy subjects that I can inflict upon my readers.

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, probably due to the Great Mid-Atlantic Drought of 1906 (I made that up). I do not know why I care about holidays, either. They are part of our common lot, I suppose, and generally non-controversial. Unlike yourself, I would rather avoid controversy if at all possible.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

And a happy May Day to you sir!...It is traditional in Yorkshire for the recipient of such a greeting to send the greeter a cheque for a hundred pounds - about $130. I shall be waiting.

rhymeswithplague said...

Lord Yorkshire Q. Pudding, Esq.: Please don't hold your breath. While you are waiting, why don't you go jump off Magdalen Bridge?

Snowbrush said...

"Unlike yourself, I would rather avoid controversy if at all possible."

I don't invite controversy, it's just that most people are so obstinate that they often disagree with me.