Cowan Palace: Ten Things You May or May Not Know About May Day

Ashley Cowan is here to make sure that this is the year you learn to love May Day.


Greetings and salutations, friends. And a very happy May Day to you! It’s a bit of a contradictory holiday if you ask me but I’m all for festivity so I thought it’d be fun to learn a little more about a day that honors the art of frolicking (along with other treasures).

Ten Things You May or May Not Know about May Day

1.) Back in the day, ancient Romans dedicated May 1st to the Flora, the goddess of flowers. And the Celtic festival of Beltane, which means “day of fire”, began as celebration of spring. In any case, the holiday was a chance to soak in some wild debauchery and over time the rituals from both observances began to overlap.

2.) May 1st is basically the meeting ground for spring and summer. Thousands of years ago it was marked as a time to come together as a community while Al Green’s “Let’s Get It On” played over the loud speakers. Well, metaphorically of course. Often the gatherings reveled in the season by embracing procreation practices. It was believed that these acts of love would foster fertility in both the land and in its population. So get to it, everyone. If you want some crops this year, you better make whoopie outside.

3.) One of the symbols that probably pops up first in your mind surrounding May Day is the maypole. And it’s pretty phallic! It was a tradition for the fairest gals to dance around the bedazzled pole with ribbons; a wonderful representation of both the male and female charms. The pole, capturing the masculine spirit, was selected by the fellas. They would find the tallest and straightest tree and place it in a common area. The feminine touches were reflected in the flower decorations that covered it. And now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be working on my ribbon dancing routine to a Gloria Estefan medley.

4.) On the morning of May Day, people would rush outside and wash their faces in the early dew. It was thought to beautify your complexion. A word of advice if you want to try it in downtown San Francisco: be careful your dew isn’t actually urine. It may not have the same results (though if it does, please don’t turn it into a business without me).

5.) Now after all that sexy spring stuff, the holiday took a bit of a turn in the late 19th century when the day became one of protest and known as International Workers’ Day. Used as a movement to inaugurate an established eight-hour workday, May Day became even more popular after the Occupy Movement as a time to reexamine workers’ rights and has led to multiple larger scale demonstrations. Now I’m all for workers’ rights, I just find it a curious day to share with the one known for promoting promiscuity. I guess in either case though, it’s another chance to recharge and revive things.

6.) Back to some of the more magical beliefs of May 1st! It’s also said to be the last day of the year for fairies to visit Earth! So get out there and find your Tinkerbelles while you still have the chance!

7.) In Hawaii, today is actually known as Lei Day. Which seems so appropriate, doesn’t it? It’s a day devoted to Hawaiian culture and a perfect excuse to surprise your sweetie with a hula dance for two.

8.) You’ve probably heard of the international distress signal, “mayday,” but it actually isn’t related to May 1st. It derives from the French “venez m’aider” which translates to “come help me.” Though, perhaps the French can land their assistance to the many kisses shared between those young horny teens taking the holiday for all that it is worth.

9.) May is known as the Flower Moon month in Native American culture. It is believed that on the full moon flowers will dance beneath the sky. So turn up those N’Sync CDs, because there will be plants leading a boogie.

10.) Okay, this last one doesn’t really relate to the holiday but it’s a fun fact anyway. On May 1, 1931 the Empire State Building officially opened its doors. And President Hoover got to press the button to turn on the lights. Fun!

So with that, I bit you all adieu. Enjoy this day in your own unique way; be it with a maypole, a protest, or your own nod to Hoover’s pressed button.