|Lustliegh May Queen Rock - By Owain.davies (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons|
"From the time of the Roman evacuation of Britain, A.D. 410, May Day festivals have been observed throughout the country. The Saxons retained the worship of Maia, the mother of Jupiter, on the first of the month, and from this custom the month derived its name.
This popular festival was observed with the joyful ringing of bells, music, dancing, and mummings. Every building was covered with a profusion of floral decorations. Kings and queens did not object to join the members of their Court, civic dignitaries, and the populace, in the enjoyment of May Day gaieties. The makers of the fun adorned themselves with wreaths and festoons of flowers. Girls, wearing a profusion of flowers, danced around the Maypole to the wild strains of fifes and drums. Men visited the beer shops, where they imbibed more than was good for them.
As the custom grew old, abuses crept in, and what was once a picturesque and innocent recreation degenerated into frantic drunken revels, which were a scandal and a nuisance."
[At a time when the government are threatening to remove our mayday bank-holiday it is worth remembering that this is among the oldest holidays in Britain. As the festival was celebrated in Pagan Ireland it is very likely that it pre-dates the Romans and is thus our oldest that is true to its roots as a celebration of the changing year.]