I can’t believe that May is here already!
It seems like only yesterday that it was freezing cold and damp here in the UK, with short dark gloomy days and long cold darker nights.
But yes it’s here already, and the month of May heralds that Spring (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) is definitely here.
By May of course many of the colorful Spring flowers, the Snowdrops, Crocuses, Daffodils and Tulips have already faded or are past their best, the days are more consistently warmer, and if we are lucky the days are sunnier and brighter as well.
The last two weeks in the UK have been wonderful with lots of sunshine, and the temperatures have been climbing steadily, however this week the weather has been steadily going downhill, and it’s supposed to rain heavily a lot over the weekend.
There is a reason for this change in the weather of course. This coming weekend, which sees the first Monday in May, is May Day Weekend in the UK and it’s a Public Holiday.
More or less all companies shut down for May Day in the UK, and if they haven’t done so already, people begin work on beautifying their gardens and get their barbecues ready for the summer.
The May Day holiday in the UK is to officially celebrate Spring, and the celebration of the first day of May dates back hundreds of years, to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the German festival of Walpurgis Night.
In the UK on May Day children would traditionally dance around the Maypole, that was erected on the Village Green and decorated with white and red ribbons. It’s a time of fertility, and the May Day dancing and festivities celebrated the birth of new creatures and the emergence from winter. I am fortunate to have some photographs of my Mother dancing around the Maypole in the village where she grew up, taken when she was quite young (1920’s) and she was given the honor of voted May Queen (or Queen Of The May).
At the other end of May, in the UK we have another Public Holiday, Spring Bank Holiday, which falls on the last Monday in May and is a formalized dating for Whitsun, the date of which varies according to Easter.
The Spring Bank Holiday in the UK is celebrated on the same day as Memorial Day in the USA, which is a day set aside to honor the dead from the armed forces. This holiday came into being following the American Civil War as a way for communities to honor the valor of those who had fallen, and although celebrated from 1868 as “Decoration Day”, it did not become Memorial Day until 1882.
On Memorial Day in the USA, every community has parades to honor their military fallen. These are usually very patriotic, with a lot of flag waving, which you sadly see precious little of in the UK.
Having lived in the USA for 15 years before returning to the UK in 2009, I did notice a lot of differences in the lifestyle, and May Day took on another meaning over there, since for many people it is the first Public Holiday that they get off work since New Years Day.
It’s hard to believe that there are fewer Public Holidays in the USA than in the UK, but while those in the UK are more focused on the earlier part of the year, those in the USA fall more in the latter part of the year.
In the UK almost all office and factory workers have a 4 day holiday over Easter (Good Friday to Easter Monday), then May Day at the start of May, then Spring Holiday at the end of May. Many companies require employees to take a 2 week break during the summer months, and then there is another public holiday at the end of August (August Bank Holiday).
By contrast in the USA, from my experience, I only had Good Friday off at one company I worked at, and at another President’s Day and Martin Luther King Day, both of which fall in February.
The long 5 months from New Years Day until Memorial Day puts a real strain on many people, especially with working a 50 or more hour week. Many companies in the USA also only give employees 10 days vacation a year if they have been with them less than 5 years, so it’s hard to justify taking a single day off during this period, whereas in Europe many people go away for a week over Easter.
Another date in May that we must of course not forget, is the 4th May. This has become known unofficially as Star Wars Day, from the Jedi saying “May The Fourth Be With You”.
Well the First Of May is tomorrow, and hopefully it will signify the start of a good month for everyone, whether it means warmer weather, enjoyable days with family and friends, or successful ventures at work.
Happy May Everyone
Wikipedia – Public Holidays In The United Kingdom
Wikipedia – May Day
Wikipedia – Whitsun
Wikipedia – Memorial Day