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Learn more about Mayday

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Mayday was a completely pagan survival in Christian England. It remained one of the few to survive being claimed as a holy day, and as such allowed the people complete freedom in its celebration.

There were numerous traditions which varied with the district, but the gathering of hawthorn or 'may' blossoms seems to have been basic to the day. The women would dance around the may-pole singing songs, taking the lead in love, which demonstrated a reversal of the rules of courtly love. Couples paired off for the day with those of their own choice, though not necessarily those whom they would eventually marry.

The custom of placing a cabbage on the doorstep of girls who had behaved imprudently through the year was a method of social control. Regardless of the degree of care they may have taken with regard to their flirtations, they were bound to be found out on Mayday. Surely only the boldest would risk not only the wrath of their parents but the scorn of the village.