Top 10 May Day events
From an ‘Oss to a Giant, pagan battles to fire displays – find out how you can celebrate the arrival of summer
1. BATTLE BETWEEN THE GREEN MAN AND THE ICE QUEEN, CLUN
At noon on 7 May, crowds will gather on Clun Bridge to witness the Green Man defeat the Frost Queen to ensure there is a summer in the valley. The leafy face of the Green Man represents nature, fertility, and the cycle of death and rebirth. After his victory the Green Man will lead a garland-festooned parade to the grounds of Clun Castle. Here, there is a craft and festivities fair for you to explore, or if you are feeling more adventurous, venture on a walk into the mesmerising Clun Valley.
For more information visit: www.clungreenman.org
2. RIDING OF THE BOUNDS, BERWICK-UPON-TWEED
Berwick-upon-Tweed will be holding the 401st riding of the bounds on 1 May at 09:30am. Berwick's bounds date back to 1438 when representatives from England and Scotland agreed where one country would end and where the other would begin. The bounds of Berwick were patrolled as early as 1542. This was to protect the town against encroachment by the Scots. Watch the 150 horsemen and women parade through the town from the Barracks to the Guildhall before beginning their ride to continue this tradition.
For more information visit: www.visitnorthumberland.com
3. FLOWER BOAT AND FURRY DANCE, CORNWALL
The revived Black Prince Flower Boat Procession takes place this year on 7 May in the villages of Millbrook, Kingsand and Cawsand and will celebrate its 26th anniversary. The flower-decorated boat, the Black Prince, will be ceremonially carried shoulder-high through the villages. The vessel will be accompanied by South-West town criers, processional dancers, musicians, children and villagers. All will be clad in traditional dress with red ribbons, sashes and red flowers in their hair. At the end of the day, the Black Prince is launched into the sea from Cawsand Beach. On 8 May, Helston hosts the famous Furry Dance. The town will conjure a carnival atmosphere and be decked with beautiful flowers. Dancing begins early, followed by the seasonal folk play, Hal-an-Tow, which is staged at several venues throughout the town.
Above: Beltane Fire Festival, Photograph: Shutterstock
4.) BELTANE FIRE FESTIVAL, EDINBURGH
On the evening of the 30 April, several thousand people will congregate at Calton Hill in the centre of Edinburgh to celebrate the Beltane Fire Festival. The spectacle will involve dazzling fire displays, drumming, processions and plenty of body paint. The fire festival of Beltane is a revitalist celebration of Celtic culture. Beltane tradition involved preparing cattle that had been penned in all winter for the high pastures where they would spend summer. It also included courting rituals that would result in matches and of course, fire, that was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Edinburgh's festival will involve around three hundred voluntary performers, marking the end of the Scottish winter and welcoming the summer season ahead with optimism.
For more information visit: www.edinburghguide.com
5.) MORRIS DANCING AT THE CERNE ABBAS GIANT, CERNE ABBAS
Get up bright and early on 1 May to watch the Wessex Morris Men dance on the old maypole site above the head of the Cerne Abbas Giant. The Giant is a mighty, 180ft, chalk figure that exists on this Dorset hillside. Local folklore has long held the Giant to be an aid to fertility. As the dawn breaks, the Morris Men will perform a routine and then make their way back down to dance in the quaint, village square for a well-deserved breakfast.
For more information visit: www.dorsetforyou.com
6.) DATHLU CALAN MAI, CARDIFF
Celebrate the arrival of summer by listening to Celtic artists at the Wales Millenium Centre on 5 May throughout the day. Artists including Carreg Lafar, Al Lewis and Taran will take over Glanfa theatre and fill it with the invigorating sounds of folk to get you into the spirit of the season. What makes it even better is you can listen to fiddles, pipes and rich voices for free!
For more information visit: www.wmc.org.uk
7.) BRIGHTON FRINGE, BRIGHTON
Brighton will come alive with an abundance of creativity and innovative thinking between 5 May and 27 May. The three-week-long, Brighton Fringe will provide a showcase for diverse art forms, as no artistic judgement or selection criteria is imposed on participants. You will have a choice of 675 events, staged at 193 venues across the city, designed to stimulate and entertain. These will include stalls, sideshows, dance-offs, acrobatic balloonists, roaming choirs and surreal, walkabout performers.
For more information visit: www.brightonfestivalfringe.org.uk
Padstow Harbour Photograph: Shutterstock
8.) MAY QUEEN FESTIVAL, BRENTHAM
On 14 May, Brentham’s May Queen Festival will begin with a procession, accompanied by a marching band, around the streets of the suburb. Included in the procession will be, Britannia, Jack-in-the-green and 150 young girls dressed in white and adorned with flowers. The crowning of the May Queen takes place at 3pm, followed by traditional dancing around the maypole. The May Queen becomes guest of honour at the evening’s festivities. It is believed that the May Queen tradition stems from the Roman tradition of celebrating the goddess of beauty, Diana. The May Queen was chosen from amongst the local and unmarried women and was crowned with greenery. On 1 May it is also common for many Catholic parishes to hold a May crowning, dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus.
For more information visit: www.brentham.com
9.) ‘OBBY ‘OSS DAY, PADSTOW
Padstow’s equivalent of May Day, ‘Obby ‘Oss Day, comes alive with the sound of music and merriment and the wild dancing of two ominous-looking ‘Osses on 1 May. The stars of the day are the two ‘Obby ‘Osses – each one consisting of a 6ft wide wooden hoop draped in black sail cloth and hoisted onto a fearsomely, masked local chap. They prance through the town followed by a troupe of musicians, singers, drummers and dancers. In Minehead, Somerset, a 500 year-old tradition sees three separate Hobby Horses (‘Obby ‘Osses), like brightly coloured ships, parade the streets during the May holiday, culminating in Boogie night.
For more information visit: www.padstowlive.com
10. GARLANDS OF FLOWERS PARADE, ABBOTSBURY
On 12 May, this Dorset village will celebrate Abbotsbury Garland Day, a tradition that has been taking place since around the early 19th century. The custom used to involve the making of a wild flower and garden flower garland by the children of the village in order to bring luck to the fisherman of the village. These were held aloft on poles and paraded from house to house in the village with the intention of collecting money, which the children would keep.The garlands were blessed in a church service and some were then rowed out to sea to be tossed into the water. Today, the large garlands are used to raise money for charity and are placed beside the war memorial in the churchyard.
For more information visit: www.dorsetinfocus.co.uk
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