Tag Archives: Spring Holidays

Bringing in the May

Image from our Fireweed 2021 wall calendar featuring artwork by Anahata Joy. Click for more info.

Many May Day customs involve flowers and green branches. Flowers are woven into wreaths to exchange as gifts between lovers or to hang on doors as decoration. Or flowers are placed in baskets and left on doorsteps for the recipients to find when they arise in the morning.

In Ireland, Beltane is the only safe day for wearing Irish lilacs. In France, the flower of May Day is the lily of the valley. Any wish made while wearing it comes true. The marsh-marigold or kingcup is called the herb of Beltane and is strewn against evil in the Isle of Man. Rosemary is another Beltane herb.

In England, there was a tradition of carrying about May garlands. At Horncastle in Lincolnshire, young boys carried May gads: peeled willow wands were wreathed with cowslips. In other parts of England, the garlands are small wooden crosses covered with flowers and greenery. But the hoop-garland is the most common: made from a framework of intersecting hoops so that the final effect is of a flower-covered globe. Sometimes a May Doll (sometimes said to represent Flora) is placed within or upon it. In Italy, the Bride of May carries the maggio, a green branch garlanded with ribbons, fresh fruits and lemons.

Sometimes flowers were given as messages: plum for the glum, elder for the surly, thorns for the prickly, and pear for the popular. In Lancashire, the flowers rhymed with their qualities. Any kind of thorn meant scorn (except for whitethorn or May), while holly was folly, briar for liars, rowan for affection and a plum in bloom rhymed with “married soon.” According to Porter, in Cambridgeshire, boys gave the popular girls sloe blossoms, while “the girl of loose manners had a blackthorn planted by hers’ the slattern had an elder tree planted by hers; and the scold had a bunch of nettles tied to the latch of her cottage door.” According to Hole, lime (which rhymes with prime) was a compliment and so was pear which rhymed with fair. The rowan (or quicken) since it rhymes with chicken was a sign of affection. But briar, holly and plum stood for liar, folly and glum while the alder (pronounced “owler” in some districts) rhymed with “scowler.” Other plants you did not want to receive included nettles, thistles, sloes, crab-tree branches and elders. Obviously there are some contradictions in this list, and some unkindness as well.

I find it interesting that the three plants most often associated with May Day: Sweet Woodruff, Lily of the Valley, and Hawthorn, all are connected in folklore with the heart. Summer is the time when Chinese medicine places the emphasis on strengthening the heart and the circulatory system. It also seems appropriate for the time of the year when we are focused on relationships and coupling.

References:
Field, Carol, Celebrating Italy, William Morrow 1990
Hole, Christina, A Dictionary of British Folk Customs, Granada Publishing 1976
Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press 1997
Porter, Enid, Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore, 1969, quoted in Hutton


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald was a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shared her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. Waverly passed away in December 2019 and is remembered for being kind, talented, and generous—especially in the aid she provided to many writers, both aspiring and well-established, with her wellspring of knowledge.

 

 


Sign up now…receive-news-3

Beating the Bounds

Image from our Land Art 2016 wall calendar featuring artwork by Dietmar Voorwold. Click image for more info.

Image from our Land Art 2016 wall calendar featuring artwork by Dietmar Voorwold. Click image for more info.

The days directly before and including Ascension Day (May 5 this year) have long been celebrated by processions around the boundaries of a property. This ancient ritual was approved by the Council of Orleans in 511. Sometimes it is called the Rogation Days.

In Belgium, the priest carries a cross and leads a procession around the fields, blessing the crops and praying for rain and abundant harvests. The litany of all saints is chanted, presumably invoking their assistance and protection. Continue reading

Green Thursday: Maundy Thursday

Image from our Organic Kitchen Garden 2016 wall calendar. Microgreens © Lynn Karlin Photography. Click image for more info.

Image from our Organic Kitchen Garden 2016 wall calendar. Microgreens © Lynn Karlin Photography. Click image for more info.

The Thursday before Easter (March 24 this year) goes by several names. It’s known in England as Maundy Thursday, after the start of the reading for that day: “Mandatum novum do vobis (I give you a new commandment).” These are the words Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper (which was a Passover feast) while he was washing their feet.

In Trapani, Italy, people visit churches to see the lavureddi, sepulchres of green. Tiered altars are set up and covered with linen. Upon these are placed pots of wheat and lentils, grown in darkness so they develop straw-colored sprouts. These are said to represent new life growing in the darkness and to foreshadow Christ’s resurrection from the tomb. Continue reading

Spring Equinox: Balance Point

Celtic Blessings 2016 wall calendar

Image from our Celtic Blessings 2016 wall calendar featuring artwork by Michael J. Green. Click image for more info.

The equinoxes are the balance points of the year, the two moments in the circle when we have roughly equal amounts of light and dark, night and day. Both holidays feature a feast of seasonal foods, perhaps not surprising when you consider that the plants are responding to the changes in light, just as we are.

The Spring Equinox feast is celebrated under many names: Passover, Easter, St. Joseph’s Day, and Naw-Ruz. But whatever its name, it typically features the first bitter greens of spring, a newly born lamb (perhaps), fresh eggs, and items made from the fresh butter and cream available as cows, goats, and sheep produce milk for their young. Continue reading

Chinese New Year: The Lunar New Year

Gardens of the Spirit 2016 wall calendar by Amber Lotus Publishing

Image by John Lander from our Gardens of the Spirit 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more.

One of the many new years in the year, the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year occurs on the second new moon following the winter solstice (February 8 in 2016). There are many traditions and variations for celebrating. Preparations usually begin two weeks ahead (during the waning moon) as people pay debts, clean homes, return borrowed items, and make offerings to the household gods.

New Year’s Day is sometimes called the Day of Beginning or the Day of Three Beginnings (of the year, of the season, and of the lunar month). People put up talismans—auspicious words cut out in red paper, sometimes more than a foot long, which are pasted up on the fronts of gates or front doors. Continue reading

Groundhog Day

Little Critters 2016 wall calendar

Image by Kate Endle from our Little Critter 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more.

Groundhog Day might seem frivolous—people gathering in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to see Punxsutawney Phil lumber out of his burrow and thus determining the weather for the coming year. But Groundhog Day is one of a number of holidays—which include the Celtic Imbolc and the Christian Candlemas—that are celebrated at this moment, halfway between midwinter (Yule) and the height of spring (Easter, Spring Equinox), when the first signs of spring are evident, whether those are the thaw, the emergence of snowdrops, or the head of a groundhog poking out of a burrow. Continue reading

The Flame Endures: Brigid the Saint

Image by Jen Delyth

Image from our Celtic Mandala 2019 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth. Click for more info.

Imbolc is a time to celebrate the coming of spring and is also the feast day of Saint Brigid (February 1). We’re delighted to share a post from Lunaea Weatherstone, a long-time Amber Lotus contributor and author of Tending Brigid’s Flame: Awaken to the Celtic Goddess of Hearth, Temple, and Forge. The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of Tending Brigid’s Flame. ~Amber Lotus

Why include a saint in a book largely intended for Pagan readers? To put it plainly, it’s because the saint and the goddess are one and the same. She never left. No other Western goddess has an unbroken history of worship. No other goddess has been clung to so passionately by her devotees, no matter what other canons of faith they accepted. To write a book about Brigid without including her saint aspect would be denying half her powers:

  • The power of endurance
  • The power of practical love
  • The power of bridging differences

As a Pagan, there was a time when I assumed that the goddess Brigid had simply been co-opted and whitewashed by the Church into something more manageable, less powerful. I see it somewhat differently now. Continue reading

St. Patrick’s Day

Artwork by Jen Delyth featured in our Celtic Mandala 2019 wall calendar. Click for info.

When I was in elementary school, we celebrated St. Patrick’s day by wearing green and racing around trying to pinch those not wearing green. Or cleverly avoiding being pinched if we forgot to wear green to school that day. Some people say that mischievous Leprechauns like to pinch people but they can’t see you if you’re wearing green. So the pinching is to remind you to wear green in order not to be pinched by the Leprechauns. Funny how these little traditions develop. Continue reading