When my husband and I were dating, his sister sent me a handkerchief with an embroidered lily-of-the-valley flower in one corner. Today is May first and one of the traditions is to give someone you care about a live lily-of-the-valley plant or something with the flower on it. I know around the first of March, the grocery stores were filled with potted daffodils, a March tradition, but I haven’t seen any lily-of-the-valley potted flowers yet.
The first day of May, formerly the Roman Feast of Floralia and later the Celtic Beltane Fire festival, has been considered to be one of the most magical days of the year and is associated with a host of superstitious beliefs, many of which concern the business of prediction and divination – especially the obtaining of information about future partners.
Many villages in the UK still have a Maypole to dance around on May first. The tradition of the Maypole although Pagan, is quite lovely. The young girls dance around, outside in the fresh air of May, after having been cooped up indoors, throughout the winter and beginning of spring. The young men watch the girls dance and fall in love with their favorites. Sounds like a great social networking system to me. It certainly is more hands-on than Facebook or any Internet dating service. Many varied traditions with flowers and dance continue throughout the world on May lst.
Washing the face with May dew is another custom. There is a belief among the women in Great Britain and other parts of Europe that May Day dew has the power to restore beauty. This is why in the Ozark Mountains, a cradle of American folklore, girls used to nurture a belief that having their faces washed with the early dawn dews on May Day would help her to be married to the man of her choice.
For the 20th century, May First has become the Workers Day or Labor Day throughout the world. Although we observe Labor Day on the first Monday of September, most of the world honors their workers on May first. So, as we toil away on the first of May, know that our counterparts throughout Europe and many countries in Latin and South America have the day off to enjoy some free time away from work.