The Traditions of May Day

‘May Day’ is an ancient festival marking the first day of Summer. It’s a time where communities come together to celebrate the blessings of spring and the upcoming summer season.

Traditional English May Day festivities usually include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing around a maypole. Delicious food, family-fun, parades, and music is also on the cards. It’s no wonder that we love May Day here at Kent Life, it involves all our favourite things!

May Day celebrations as we know them are believed to have originated from the Celtic festival Beltane. Celts believed that the 1st May was the most important day of the year. It signified the split of light and dark as the change in season welcomed the sun after a long winter. To honour this day, the Celts held the Beltane festival in which fire was used to symbolically celebrate the return of life and fertility.

As the celebration dates back hundreds of years to Celtic times, it has collected a variety of beliefs and traditions along the way, here are five of our favourites:

Did you know…?

  • To ward off Cailleach’s (witches) and bestow good luck, people would decorate their house on the eve of May Day with sunshine yellow flowers, such as buttercups and marigolds.
  • Legend has it that washing your face with dew on the 1st of May beautifies the skin and brings good luck. It has been said that Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and her ladies, bathed in morning dew on the morning of May Day.
  • In France, bundles of flowers are tied around the tail of a cow, which is then guided through a parade. For those fortunate enough to get close and touch the cow, it is believed they will be blessed with good luck.
  • Maypole dancing can be traced back to medieval times and was believed to have started as a fertility ritual to bless the crops as well as encouraging human life.
  • It was thought that milking your neighbour’s cow on the morning of May Day would grant good luck and make your own herd of cows produce lots of milk throughout the year.

May Day at Kent Life

There will be a jam-packed May Day Celebration at Kent Life this year with traditional May Day entertainment for the whole family to enjoy.

Take the opportunity to dance around the maypole, join a fabulous May Day parade with our very own Mr Moo (your chance to show off your flower crowns!) and enjoy fairground rides, animal encounters and traditional Steam Organ entertainment.

As always, guests can tuck into delicious sandwiches and cakes from Dotty’s Tea Room, or a freshly baked pizza from our onsite wood-fired pizza oven.

See you there!