May Day has been celebrated since ancient Roman times and is still observed around the world. The celebration often starts in the evening hours of April 30 and continues through May 1. It is a time to welcome in spring with joyous celebrations.
May Day in the U.S.
May Day was widely observed in the United States around the time of the Civil War, but it has waned in popularity. In the 1940s and 1950s, May Day was celebrated in the Northern United States with the giving of gift baskets. Children gave baskets stuffed with goodies to neighbors. They placed the baskets on their doorsteps, rang the bells and ran. This protected the givers' anonymity. Past May Day traditions include celebrating with craft projects. Baskets were woven from construction paper, or strawberry baskets were decorated and filled. Remnants of May Day celebrations can be found at Renaissance and medieval festivals
May Day often evokes images of young girls dancing around a maypole and weaving colorful ribbons around its base. This traditional dance dates back to medieval England, and many European countries still celebrate the holiday. In Germany, people celebrate all night with bonfires at night and maypoles in the morning. Some German men place ribbon-decorated boughs in the yard of the girl they want to marry as part of the celebration festivities. Socialist countries also observe May Day, but they view it as a Labor Day celebration -- where they honor the military and industry.
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