The month of May is the fifth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. It has 31 days. May was named for the goddess Miai, the goddess of springtime, warmth, and increase. May Day (1st May) is celebrated as a spring festival in many countries. It marks the revival of life in early spring after winter. The roots of May Day can be found deep into the pagan beliefs in the form of Beltane. Beltane is a Celtic word which means 'fires of Bel'. It is a fire festival that celebrates the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.
In medieval times, May Day became the favourite holiday of many English villages. On the morning of May 1, the village youths went to the woods and gathered "mayflowers," or hawthorn blossoms, to decorate the Maypole. A towering Maypole was set up on the village green. This pole, usually made of the trunk of a tall birch tree, was decorated with bright field flowers. Then villagers danced around the Maypole, holding the ends of ribbons that streamed from its top. They wove the ribbons around the pole until it was covered with bright colours. The custom of dancing around the maypole is an ancient fertility rite, which is still performed today on village greens and at spring fetes. I still remember my childhood days dancing around the maypole at the little village school I attended. Other traditional May Day celebrations include choosing a May Queen, and hanging May baskets filled with flowers on doorknobs.
"The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup;
I'll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown'd it."
~ Robert Herrick, The Maypole, 1660
"Let us take our baskets early
To the meadows green,
While the wild-flowers still are pearly
With the dewdrops' sheen.
Fill them full of blossoms rosy,
Violets and gay
Cowslips, every pretty posy
Welcoming the May.
Then our lovely loads we'll carry
Down the village street,
On each door, with laughter merry,
Hang a basket sweet.
Hey-a-day-day! It is spring now,
Lazy folks, awake!
See the pretty things we bring now
For the May-day's sake!"
~ Evaleen Stein
Our English Asparagus season officially starts on May 1st. The harvest lasts for approximately 6 weeks - until mid-June. So whilst asparagus is in season and at its best, grab a bundle and get cooking.
Lily of the Valley is May's celebrated flower.
Lily of the Valley are beautiful old-fashioned perennials, with little nodding, white flowers which form a ladder of bells. Lily of the valley has to be the most purely beautiful flower there is. They are known for their mild, sweet fragrance, which has been captured in so many scents that we are all familiar with it. Its quite unbelievable that such a tiny little plant could emit such a heavenly scent, it is just glorious!
The best way to appreciate the fragrance is to plant Lily of the Valley along a walkway or grow them in raised pots to scent the patio. Some folk consider it bad luck to bring these flowers into the house. Lily of the Valley may have a beautiful fragrance, but all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.
Lily of the valley is easy to accommodate anywhere in shade, tuck it among ferns and other shade-lovers at the back of a border. They do have a running habit and can spread very quickly by underground stems called rhizomes, they need to be kept in check so they don't become a bit of a problem in the garden, as Scotty points out. Our Scotty doesn't care much for Lily of the valley, you see, it ate his Hosta! :)
The name 'Lily of the Valley' is derived from the Latin convallis, meaning 'valley' and 'majalis' meaning 'May-flowering' when the plant commonly flowers. It is also known as Little Maybells, Mary's Tears, Our Lady's Tears, Ladder to Heaven, Jacob's Tear, and May Lily.
Lily of the valley were first cultivated in 1420 and are thought to be native to Europe. They grow wild here in England, where they are found in abundance in many areas.
These small, fragile, bell-shaped flowers are considered traditional marriage flowers. The Lily of the valley flower is much used in bridal arrangements for their lovely sweet perfume.
Traditionally, Lily of the Valley is sold in the streets of France on May 1. It is often given as a small gift and is said to represent good luck and happiness.
The scent of this flower is said to attract nightingales and to give people the power to see a better world. In the language of flowers, lily of the valley represent the return of happiness. They are generally a symbol of humility, purity, and sweetness.
The May Queen