Spring Fever!

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 light.

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 flowers.

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 Springtime!



The Old Farmer's Almanac, 1993.

The Book of Festival Holidays by Marguerite Ickis.

A Calendar of Festivals by Marian Green