An age-old festival, May Day celebrates the bright bloom and promise of summer, traditionally with flowers. Whether or not you decide to follow ancient ritual and wash your face in the fresh morning dew on May 1st, festoon your home with garlands and welcome the new season with a party.
May 1st is May Day, a sign that winter is behind us and sunnier days are here – we hope! Add May brightness to your house and garden with a May Day party over the bank holiday weekend – perhaps a Truly Scrumptious tea-time celebration with traditional favourites, a carnival or fete in traditional English style or a Floral Fiesta BBQ with more of a Latin feel – check out our Cinco de Mayo post.
Decorate your May Day party with flowers and floral motifs, a seasonal practice that goes back through the ages. As well as fresh garden blooms, add your own homemade paper versions and hang honeycombs and pompoms overhead. Decorate doorknobs around the house, or the backs of chairs with paper cones hung with flower heads. We love paper garlands and streamers, available in so many pretty shades. Outdoor bunting adds colour and is hard-wearing enough to stay up, ready for parties all summer long.
A spread for a May Day fete can be full of your favourite things; think pretty floral plates piled with of soft, crustless cucumber or egg and cress sandwiches, fruity flapjacks, jewel-coloured jellies and of course, stands piled with cake! We love the idea of these pretty cupcakes in jars. To drink, how about a summer berry iced tea? Satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth with an eye-catching candy bar buffet.
In many countries, May Day activities centre around a parade. Hold one of your own in the garden and ask all the kids to make their own May day flower garlands and come in fancy dress, with a prize for the best costume or the crowning of a May Queen. Create a Maypole for them to dance around by attaching coloured ribbons to the top of an old broom handle and sticking it into the ground.
To make a Maypole:
You will need
- a white painted wooden curtain pole of around 2.5 m in length, with a screw and a finial
- 6 coloured ribbons, 5 m long
- drawing pins
- 2 wooden discs, just bigger in diameter than the curtain pole (around 8cm)
Drill a hole in the centre of the two wooden discs, so that they can fit onto the curtain pole beneath the finial. Fold each length of ribbon in half and cut a tiny indent with scissors so that you have a hole in the very centre of each length to correspond with the drilled holes.
With their centres aligned to the drilled hole, fix the ribbons in place across one disc using drawing pins at each edge, turning the disc each time so that they cross over each other in a sort of star shape. Sandwich the second disc on top of the first and glue them together. Attach the finial on a screw to the top.
Stick the other end of the curtain pole firmly into some soft ground – a lawn is ideal, or failing that, a parasol base. Then let the fun begin – each child grabs an end of ribbon and can dance around the pole, weaving the ribbons under and over each other, depending on what their friends are doing, until its time to untangle!
Involve all ages in fete-like outdoor activities, such as skittles and various races. Face painting will delight younger revellers – think flowers and butterflies. A flower pinata fits the theme brilliantly and everyone can enjoy the treats it yields!
You may want to make May Baskets as a craft activity, which were traditionally left on doorsteps as anonymous gifts, filled with flowers or sweets. These make wonderful May Day favours. Set up a craft table for the kids in advance of May Day, with plenty of coloured paper, glue and trimmings. Create baskets from paper cones or cups punched with holes, decorate with coloured pens, bits of doily, ribbons, pompoms and other trimmings. On May Day morning, fill them with flowers or sweets and hang them with ribbon from a friend or favourite neighbour’s front door to spread the summer joy. After your May Day party, fill floral party bags or boxes with goodies for going-home time.