Sunday, 1 May 2011

And after April, when May follows...

The first of May is International Workers' Day, and a holiday in many countries for that reason.

In England, it is a day when folk customs and traditions are observed and celebrated. The custom of young men and women going out from the towns to the countryside early in the morning to gather flowers and greenery dates back at least to Chaucer‘s time. It was observed by Henry VIII and his court in the early sixteenth century.

A young girl would often be chosen and crowned as May Queen. There would be dancing around the Maypole. The church of St Andrew Undershaft in the City of London is so called because of the great Maypole that used to stand nearby.

May Day is one of the occasions when traditional Morris dancing may be seen. Morris dancing was referred to in the mid fifteenth century. Every region of England has its own Morris tradition, with particular dances and costumes.

Morris dance and music, folk songs and other traditions were in danger of dying out by the end of the nineteenth century. They were collected and recorded by Cecil Sharp and others, so that they may still be performed today.

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