As the earth burst with new life again, we often feel the urge to celebrate that seasonal shift; May Day is the perfect opportunity! A May Pole is the traditional activity, but Carrie from The Parenting Passageway has several, simple ideas (below), perfect for celebrating with little ones. (Although, the May Pole is SO fun, you might just want to give it a try!)
Wasatch Waldorf shares some beautiful thoughts about the significance of traditions in general, and May Day in particular. "The sense of the sacred has to do with the recognition (or maybe it’s hope) that time doesn’t just pass, it is taking us somewhere. The Waldorf seasonal festivals mark this journey in a way that resonates with the journey of other peoples across time and suggests meaning and mystery.
Throughout history and in all civilizations, there are rituals reflecting nature’s rhythms, important transitions, and significant moments in the cycle of the year and the life of the culture. For people today, festivals can help provide a real touchstone with the cycles of the earth and the soul nurturing they provide.
Reverence, ritual and rhythm are three integrated aspects of Waldorf education. Our present culture does not always value these qualities as much as we may in our homes. Sensationalism, sensory stimulation, advertising and competitiveness are but a few contemporary trends that undermine our capacity for reverence. In the speed and busyness of our contemporary world, it often helps to be reminded of more enduring values. Establishing an environment in which each day is rhythmically ordered and the year is marked at special moments with rituals and celebrations helps create a secure foundation from which to grow.
May Day is a beautiful festival honoring the changing of the seasons from darkness to light. The tree of life was part of this ritual and is now represented by the Maypole. By celebrating the passage of the seasons through art, music and story, we strengthen our connection to the rhythms of nature.
Here are a few ideas from Carrie, if you'd like to incorporate this seasonal celebration into your home!
- Make a May Pole and invite children to dance! Yes, there are May Pole dances on You Tube if you have never seen one in person!
- Play games – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” recounts that sports at the May Day festival included smearing poles with grease and seeing who could climb to the top the fastest, races on foot, sack races, blindfolded races, wrestling, hopping and jumping contests
- Make ankle bracelets with little bells that ring when you walk and braided wreaths of flowers for the heads of the children you love.
- Make a special May Day cake with a small maypole on the top! Sponge cake is rather traditional.
- Learn music for May Day. (Here are some songs from Lavender's Blue Homeschool!)
- Get up early and wash your faces in the morning dew
- Make beautiful May Day baskets or cones and fill them flowers – leave them on your neighbor’s doors
- Decorate your own house with wreaths, garlands, ribbons
- Pick herbs and dry them
- Go on a picnic – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” has suggestions for food
- Some parts of Europe hold bonfires – consider a bonfire!