May Day may mean maypoles, beer or leis. But it’s still about spring
The calendar might read May 1, but — depending on what country you’re in — the day can be known as May Day, International Workers Day or Labor Day.
Whether it’s welcoming the return of spring by dancing around a maypole or honoring workers across the globe, May Day means different things to different people.
Here are five places offering May Day-related events around the world.
May Day has its roots in Europe, so what better place to spend it than a 13th century castle?
Hever Castle and Gardens, about 30 miles southeast of London, will host its family-friendly May Day Festival from May 4 to 6. The castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, who became queen of England in 1533 and was beheaded three years later in London.
At the festival, visitors can dance around the maypole festooned with brightly colored ribbons, watch a performance of “Robin Hood,” and follow the Green Man (from folklore) in a procession through the gardens as children help him wake the plants using their May bells.
Info: Hever Castle and Gardens
Not surprisingly, Germans have found a way to link May Day with beer.
On May 1, villagers in Bavaria, Germany’s largest state, gather around the maypole, listen to music and sip a traditional dark beer brewed just for the occasion.
Most Bavarian villages have a club whose young men head into the woods and fell a tall pine tree that is then decorated as the maypole. Part of Bavaria’s tradition involves inhabitants of one villages trying to steal the maypole of a neighboring village. If they succeed a ransom is paid in — you guessed it — beer.
Info: May Day in Bavaria
May Day celebrations in the United Kingdom are typically daytime events filled with maypole dancing and flower wreaths. Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, offers an alternative.
The Beltane Fire Festival starts at sundown April 30 at the top of Calton Hill in the middle of Edinburgh. Organizers say the festival aims to bring ancient Celtic traditions to life with a modern twist.
Using a combination of fire displays, drumming, elaborate costumes and storytelling, the festival features the May Queen “transforming the Green Man from his wintry guise so they can rule together over the warmer months.”
The performance finishes by 1 a.m., a memorable way to usher in May Day.
Info: Beltane Fire Festival
Some early European settlers in what would become the U.S. Upper Midwest celebrated May Day in their new country, a tradition that continues in certain communities.
In Minneapolis, festivities include a colorful May Day Parade featuring two-story-tall puppets traveling along Bloomington Avenue followed by the Tree of Life Ceremony and a festival in Powderhorn Park. This year’s 45th event, put on by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, is set for May 5.
May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. The day honors Hawaiian culture and the state’s iconic flower garlands.
The 92nd Lei Day Celebration will be Wednesday (May 1) at Honolulu’s Kapiolani Park. The event features its famous Lei Contest Exhibit along with lei-making workshops, Hawaiian games and a variety of vendors.
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