by Linda Pascatore
© 1994-2000 The Gobbler: Spring Bud
Have you been daydreaming at work or
school, gazing mindlessly out the window at the budding
trees and the bright sunshine? Do you itch to be outside
every waking moment? Are you having thoughts of love and
romance? Do you have an urge to fly a kite, play hooky,
or even write a poem? If so, you are not going crazy, you
just have a good case of spring fever.
Spring Fever seems to be the natural
state of being at this time of year. The weather is
finally warming up. The trees are leafing out, and the
flowers are blooming. All of nature is bursting with new
life. Reproductive juices are flowing in the plant and
animal kingdoms. Birds are mating and nesting, and
animals are giving birth.
In the past, people came together at
this time of year. They celebrated their spring fever,
and found expression for their aspirations and urges.
Spring festivals were probably celebrated in all cultures
where the season occurred. The ancient Greeks used crowns
of laurel leaves in spring ceremonies, which often
included outdoor athletic events. The Romans celebrated a
spring festival called Florida which honored Flora, their
goddess of flowers (Yes, that's where the state got its
name). The local Native Americans had a Strawberry
Festival (see article this issue). In England, Beltane,
or the return of the sun, was celebrated with bonfires.
It was the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the
Summer Solstice, and was at the height of spring. This
holiday later became known as May Day.
May Day is officially on May 1st, but
the celebration date was often determined locally,
depending on the weather and the blooming of flowers and
trees. The day was reserved for all kinds of outdoor
activities, including the gathering of flowers and
greenery, processions, dances around May Poles, and
bonfires; all to celebrate the return of warmth and
Traditionally in Britain, everyone
would rise early on the holiday to "go A-Maying." A large
tree or May Pole was cut, decorated, and erected on the
village green. Branches of hawthorne trees, greenery and
flowers were gathered. These were used to festoon all the
homes in the village. Then there would be a procession of
all the villagers. They would wear flowers and carry them
in baskets. Children would blow whistles made from willow
or elder stems. This was called May Music. The procession
would end on the village green.
A young girl was chosen to be the May
Queen. She represented the White Lady or Queen of Faire.
She would be honored throughout the day and crowned with
a garland of flowers when the sun was at its highest
point in the sky. The May Queen was sometimes accompanied
by a male counterpart or May King. He represented either
Robin Hood or Jack in the Green, also called Green Man.
This was the British spirit of the woods. After the
crowning, the dance around the May Pole would begin.
The May Pole was a tall, straight tree
stripped of its branches. Ribbons of alternating colors
were tied to the top. The dancers held a streamer and
skipped across the circle to the right or left of the
pole until the pole was wrapped. A song was sung during
the dance. I participated in a May Pole dance once. It
took quite a while and was a real production to make it
work with two dozen people. I can imagine what it was
like on a village scale. The dance was followed by other
outdoor games and more music-making.
Historically in old England, May Day
or Beltane was also the day for young couples to pair.
This was probably because of the association of the
holiday with fertility; with animals breeding and plants
blooming. The couples would not marry yet, but wait three
months for that, until the next Cross-Quarter Day (August
1st, midway between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox).
This would give them some time to determine if they were
compatible. Later this waiting period was shortened to
six weeks, and occurred on Summer Solstice, June 21st.
Hence the tradition of June weddings.
In America today, there is no true
spring holiday. Easter is a little early, before the
flowers bloom. In fact, we had snow this Easter. Memorial
Day is a more somber occasion, and a little late anyway.
That day traditionally marks the beginning of the summer
season. Many people plant on Memorial Day weekend,
because the danger of frost is past. Mother's Day usually
falls at about the right time for a spring festival. It
is usually warm and is certainly associated with
Sometime this season, let yourself go
and indulge your spring fever. Play hooky, go for a hike,
make a crown of daisies and wear it on your head. Write a
poem, climb a tree, or walk barefoot in the grass. Send a
love letter to your spouse or someone who strikes your
fancy. Have a family picnic with outdoor games, make a
Maypole for your kids, have a flower parade, or just play
outside. Do something foolish or frivolous. Celebrate the
The Old Farmer's Almanac, 1993.
The Book of Festival Holidays by Marguerite
A Calendar of Festivals by Marian Green