May Day may mean maypoles, beer or leis. But it’s still about spring

The maypole figures into many May Day celebrations, including this one at Hever Castle in England.
(Hever Castle and Gardens)

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.

Hever, England

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.


The Green Man, with help from local children, seeks to rouse plants from their winter's nap at the Hever Castle May Day Festival in England.
(Hever Castle and Gardens)

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

Bavaria, Germany

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

Edinburgh, Scotland

Celtic traditions take on a modern twist as winter is banished in this Edinburgh festival.
(Duncan Reddish)

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.

Info: In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre


The 92nd annual Lei Day Celebration will be held May 1 at Honolulu’s Kapiolani Park.
(Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation)

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.

On Hawaii Island, the Hilo Lei Day Festival returns to Kalakaua Park on Wednesday (May 1). Both events are free and open to the public.

Info: In Honolulu, Lei Day Celebration, In Hilo, Lei Day Festival