When all the lads and lasses,
They all came out to play.
On Saturday, May 8th, we of the Colonial Revelers will forsake 18th century America to don the traditional white clothes and flowers of 19th century England as we dance around the Maypole. Join us at The Piazza at Schmidt's, 1050 North Hancock Ave., in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. Shows at 11, noon, 1 and 2.
The ancient Celts celebrated eight holidays. Four were the solstices and equinoxes. The other four were halfway between each solstice and equinox. Of these, only Lughnasadh, the August 1 "first harvest" celebration has fallen pretty much by the wayside.
The November 1 "final harvest" holiday of Samhain is familiar to us now as Halloween/All Saints/All Souls Day. Imbolc, the February 1 holiday meant to hurry spring along, became the sacred holiday of Candlemas but retained its secular roots in the observance of Groundhog's Day.
Beltane, May 1st, was the Celts' second most important holiday, and has been known and celebrated as May Day for at least a thousand years. This served as a nice break after the back- breaking jobs of plowing and sowing. Once your seeds are the ground, you also want to assuage the powers that be to make your seeds grow, so the holiday was a fertility festival, a notion being helped along by the rebirth of spring, when all wild green plants bud, and birds and animals give birth. Humans welcomed a day to sing, dance, flirt and otherwise frolic with members of the opposite sex.
The Sports of May, a canon from Thomas Warren's Collection (1775), can be heard on Colonial Revelers CD Revelry, Reflection & Revolution. The single MP3 is available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/colonialrevelers .