‘It’s May! It’s May… That darling month when everyone throws self-control away.’ May 1, 2011.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

I had quite a different thought in mind for my article today… but at about 4 a.m. a light breeze caressed me and I was overwhelmed by an astonishing chorus of birdsong, as one determined winged group answered another, each and every one of them demanding con brio that I wake up and celebrate this day… and make sure you celebrate it, too, for the true end of winter (not just some date on the calendar) is a most important thing.

So, I threw up the sash on the window and quaffed the air. There wasn’t a touch of winter in it,  not a scintilla, not a particle. It was well and truly May… and, in an instant, I was back over 50 years ago where, in the breeze way, my mother was engaged in directing her young charges in the finer points of May baskets. But first…

On December 3, 1960 Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot” opened in New York with Julie Andrews and Richard Burton as  Guinevere and King Arthur. Andrews belted out a pip of a song on May… and it’s utterly appropriate you let it enliven your day today. Go now to any search engine and find it, and let it be 1960 for you all over again… Listen to the music here: Camelot – Julie Andrews

“It’s May! It’s May! The lusty month of May! That lovely month when ev’ryone goes Blissfully astray.”

The truth is, my days of going “blissfully astray” have long passed. This is not a good thing… we all need a day now and then when “wicked thoughts Merrily appear.”

May 1 is tailor-made to be that day: “That gorgeous holiday When ev’ry maiden prays that her lad Will be a cad!”

For many years politics, particularly Red politics as directed by dour Russian communists whose dissipations were leaden and plodding, obscured the real purpose of May 1 and, indeed, the entire month of May. Lenin and company decreed that May’s license for merriment be replaced by International Workers’ Day (also known as International Labour Day).

Per usual, this determination came in a ukase from the sweat-drenched apparatchiki of Moscow… personally, I have always maintained that if the workers had been asked for their opinion on the matter they would have chosen…

“”It’s May, it’s May, the month of  ‘Yes, you may’ The time for every frivolous whim, proper or im-”

But that was the thing about those revolutionary Russkies: they were always telling you something, demanding something, insisting on something… the very things we throw off on May 1st… the better to let our genetic code do its thing and direct us in uninhibited may-hem.

In short,the vital sap of May has proven its prodigious strength… there will not be in Moscow today — or perhaps anywhere — a tedious parade featuring tractors and heroes of the falsely named republics. These parades and the grim visaged crew who invented and directed them have been toppled… and we all have regained the undisputed right to a day “depraved in every way”… and a good thing, too. It’s what the workers would have chosen for themselves… if anyone had bothered to ask them. Which brings us back to the true meaning of May Day and the May days which follow….

Sacred to the feast of Beltane, Celtic start of summer.

May Day calls for a sloughing off of sober responsibilities and of the proper, serious, VIP you have become. For this day, this single day, you dance, not march, to a different drummer, this time played by the (rather sheepish) pagans who celebrate the festival of Beltane. Sadly these latter-day neo-pagans are in desperate need of experienced help. I have rarely seen a more tatterdemalion crew or folks more in need of assistance in the art of dissipation. Their current antics are not inspiring and irritate, I aver, the high panoply of Celtic deities who wince every time a foul-smelling, foul-attired Beltaniain happens by. In short, the neo-pagans are an embarrassment in need of a make-over, the better to serve the cause of excess and pleasure.

No doubt they are adversely afflicted by the shear lack of accurate information about how the good pagans of yore did dissipate. What’s known about Beltane, for instance, is quite frankly not very attractive. For instance, a highlight of the event was the ever-festive bonfire created by rubbing sticks together. Related rituals included driving cattle between two fires, dancing around the fires, and burning witches in effigy, no doubt an acquired taste.

Another tradition was Beltane cakes, which would be broken into several pieces, one of which was blackened. These pieces would then be drawn by celebrants at random, the person getting the unlucky piece would face a mock execution. Perhaps it was more alluring and pleasurable if you were actually there…


St. Walburga (or Walpurgis), the abbess of the monastery of Heidenheim, helped St. Boniface bring Christianity to 8th century Germany. The date of May 1 became, over time, sacred to this well-loved Christian lady, the better to obliterate a pre-existing pagan festival, again including rites to protect oneself from witchcraft. This lead, in the muddled way with such matters, to a hybrid festival in which witches were said to meet with the Devil on the eve of May 1. The night of April 30th became known as “Walpurgisnacht”… and the day following was, perhaps, given over to gratitude for having survived it.

Things were better in England…

In medieval England, folks would celebrate the start of spring by going out to the country or woods “going a-maying” by gathering greenery and flowers, the first description of this occurring in “The Court of Love” (1561). Thereafter the maypole went up… the music began… morris dancers at the ready… and a May Queen to crown with persiflage, good humor, debauchery and the certainty of a headache tomorrow. Yes, as always, the Brits know how to party…

From this tradition came my mother’s May Day version. Like everywhere else in the great heartland, May 1st in Illinois meant the harsh winter was gone, gone forever. Everyone and everything breathed easier as a result; there was the promise of clemency and of sultry slower moving days. The advent to these days lay through the rich flora of midwestern America. Our home, beside a rambling creek, was incomparably beautiful at springtime, carpeted as it was with violets on every side. In the late light of day, you could believe it was God’s own greenhouse.

From this incomparable soil came its harvest of beauty… tulips, lilacs, the last remaining daffodils and always the violets in unimaginable beauty and abundance…

From these my mother chose the best and directed us in how to make the May baskets… and make them just so, festooned as always by a ribbon of the brightest hue. Then, without a card, she dispatched us on the task of delivery; to be put in front of entry doors, the doorbell rung, then running fast away, never to be seen.

I asked her once why we didn’t add a card, like florists do. She only smiled. I know why now… we who delivered, laughing so, were the card… and our message was unmistakable, an image of youth and laughter, running through a panorama of flowers whose very fragrance I can smell to this pristine May day.


About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

Dr. Lant is also the author of 18 best-selling business books.

Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone

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