Happy May Day! In ancient times, people held festivals at this time of year to honor the earth’s fecundity. The Romans celebrated Floralia which honored the goddess Flora and the blossoming earth. The Germanic people also held festivals for flowers, fertility, and the lighter half of the year. While the actual date varies astronomically, the traditional date is May 1st.
One of the four Celtic fire festivals, Beltaine is marked by bonfires and celebrations for life, renewal, and fertility. Spelled a variety of ways and pronounced BEE-yul-TIN-yuh, this holiday was also considered a time when one could commune easily with the spirit world and with fairies.
The hawthorn tree plays a central role in traditional Beltaine festivities. In fact, the Celtic Druids likely chose the date for Beltaine based on when the hawthorn bloomed. The berries and flowers of the hawthorn are used to make heart and blood pressure medicines. And hawthorn trees are long-lived, have thorny branches, make very powerful wands, and are attractive to bees. (I will let you do the math and figure out why this tree is associated with a fertility holiday, then.)
Probably the most recognized Beltaine symbol is the Maypole. Young maidens would gather flowers, decorate the Maypole, and then wrap it with ribbons. There was often a symbolic marriage ceremony of the Queen of May to the Horned God, or the Lord of the Greenwood.
However you choose to celebrate the coming of Summer, I hope it is a joyous and fruitful time for you!