In Finland Mayday, like most ancient pagan celebrations, is still celebrated, though in these modern days it's more of a festival of Bacchus than that of cleansing and fires. Some fertility is inevitably included though.
The modern Vappu, is also one of the remaining customs of the workers Unions, dating back all the way to the late 1800s. Mayday is also the international workers day, and during the 70s solidarity movement, the Mayday marches in Finland drew tens of thousands of participants. I have tons of cute picture of my infant self waving a balloon instead of the red flag on these happy-go-lucky hippie commie events.
In the older traditions Beltane eve is a night of magic, when the witches fly, and the veils between the worlds are the thinnest, just as they are on Samhain and the Solstices. It is considered bad luck to stay outside past midnight on the eves of these celebrations, although the more sinister connotations of pagan holidays were often brought in by the invading Christianity, which in many countries maintained the old celebrations under new guises.
Like many pagan festivals, Beltane too was celebrated with fire. During these celebrations household fires were usually extinguished and then rekindled from a ceremonial one. There were rites including leaping over fires, and baking ritual cakes over them, as well as smearing ash onto a piece, which then was drawn by a person who had to jump trough a fire, much like the king-making almond in Winter Solstice foods. According to our aforementioned farmer friend animals were walked trough bonfires to purify them.
On the coast of Finland Maypoles are the norm, with girls dressed in folk costumes, dancing and singing as they encircle it with ribbons. The maypole, as most of you probably gigglingly know, is a fertility symbol, around which maidens danced, dressing it in ribbons.
Often there was something to be captured on top of the May and Solstice poles, that young men would try to reach by climbing. Nowadays Maypoles are more of a children's thing. Folks in our community do one too, and it has been quite fun the two years I've gotten to be a part of it. The family that brought the Maypole tradition to the Island has a birthday around this time, and they've definitely got a system going for how the dancing is organized.
First you unravel last years weave. This takes quite a while. Then the music begins. Traditionally there are a number of intricate ways to dance, so that a pattern emerges in the ribbons. This too depends on the number of ribbons, dancers, the the dance itself. To achieve this pretty pattern you go over-under-over-under, with every other dancer twirling widdershins. Got that? Good. Here we go.
I wore this to the concert we went to on Beltane Eve. Thankfully we got home well before midnight. On Beltane day I had to work before the festivities, so I opted for something a little more stain-resistant.
Oh and now the moment you've all been waiting for: The Poster Giveaway! The luck of the draw fell on...drumroll please...Andrea and Pomegranates and Teeny! Whee! Yippee! The posters aren't out of the presses yet, but as soon as they are, you can look forward to receiving one, with some added bonus materials.
Now back to the momentous spring clean. Big hugs to all.