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The What’s On Guide to Woodborough - May 2015

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This month as its May, I thought I would look into May Day and it’s traditions here in the UK.

May Day

The first day in May is known as May Day. It’s when people look forward to Summer with lots of different traditions that are expressions of happiness and hope after the Winter. Although Summer doesn’t begin until June, May Day celebrates the beginning.

May Day Traditions

The month of May has many traditions and celebrations. For the convenience of the general public, many May Day activities have now been moved to the May Day holiday on the first Monday of the month.

Many of the May Day celebrations take place at the weekend as well as on the “May Day Monday”. The weekend is known as bank holiday weekend because it has the extra day holiday on the Monday.

There was once a tradition in England called “lifting” where a gang of young men would lift a girl in a flower bedecked chair on May Day. Then the girl would choose a boy on 2nd May.

In the North of England, the 1st May was a kind of late “April Fooling” when all sorts of pranks would take place “May Gosling” was the shout if you managed to trick someone. The response would be:-

“May Gosling past and gone. You’re the fool for making me one!”

May Day Today

In some places, May Day celebrations still begin at sunset on the 30th April. They include lots of floral decorations and processions through towns and villages.

Maypole Dancing

One of the traditions is Maypole Dancing. On May Day people used to cut down young trees and stick them in the ground in the village to mark the arrival of Summer. People danced around them in celebration of the end of Winter and the start of fine weather that would allow planting to begin.

Maypoles were once common all over England and were kept from one year to the next, schools would practice skipping around the pole before the final show on the village green. The end results would be either a plaited pattern of ribbons or  tangled cat’s cradle. Many English villages still have a Maypole and on the 1st May, villagers dance around it.

The tallest Maypole is said to have been erected in London on the Strand in 1661, it stood over 143 feet. It was felled in 1717 when it was used by Isaac Newton to support Huygen’s new reflecting telescope.

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Morris Dancing

Another traditional dance you will see on May Day is Morris Dancing. The dance is very lively and is often accompanied with an accordion player. The dancers are often men and are dressed in white with coloured baldricks.

Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

This celebration is the oldest May Day celebration still going today, it is called Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss because it originates in a place called Padstow. It goes back to the 14th century. Every May Day thousands of people come to see the two famous Hobby Horses, the Old Oss and the Blue Ribbon Oss.

Celebrations in Padstow officially start on the 30th April at midnight, when groups of “mayers” meet outside the Golden Lion Inn to serenade the owner with their Night Song:

Rise up, Mr Rickard, and joy to your betide,

For summer is a come today;

And bright is your bride, that lays down by your side

In the merry morning of May.

As I always like to write about an event or a tradition that is significant to the month, I thought I would share with you one more event that is happening in May – my birthday, yippppeeeee!

Look out for June’s edition of Woodborough Web.


If you didn’t see last month’s article about the tartan painted sheep, you can still read it by clicking HERE.

….but don’t forget the subject of last month’s “Will Green Page” which was “April Fools Day”.