May 1st - a day for celebrations!
It is International Workers' Day. Often referred to as May Day, it is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement and occurs every year on May 1st.
It is Beltane, a Celtic fire festival that celebrates the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year. When I was in elementary school a big celebration was held on May 1st including a Maypole Dance. The 6th grade girls danced around a tall pole holding ribbons that were attached at the top of the pole, wearing them together as they wrapped them around the pole from top to bottom. As a child, of course, I didn’t recognize the fertility ritual that is so very clear to me today.
Naturally there are several National Days that fall on May 1st, including National Chocolate Parfait Day! Yum. (Darn this shelter in place order! I want a parfait!)
In my childhood home there was a small niche in the wall at the top of the stairs specially built to hold a statue of the Virgin Mary and a container of holy water. On the 1st of May my mother would place fresh flowers in front of the statue to venerate Mary as Queen of the May. Every day during the month she replaced the flowers with new ones. This celebration of Mary, mother of Jesus throughout the month of May remained part of my life even during the decades when I was unwilling to go to church. Whenever possible I have made a small shrine in my home with a picture or statue of the Madonna, a candle, and flowers.
My mother passed on her veneration of the Virgin Mary to me. She made sure I was well educated on the importance of women in Christianity, giving me books on the lives of saints and martyrs from the early days of the Church up into modern times. Probably as a result of this, as an adult I have sought the divine in feminine form or the feminine in the divine, collecting images that represent the feminine divine from many faith traditions and cultures. I have found these very different representations of divinity also have a number of commonalities, often being associated with spring, fertility, and healing. Not surprisingly, some of the more popular goddesses of ancient cultures seem to have morphed into Christian saints. St. Bridget, for example, has a great deal in common with the Celtic goddess Brigid.
Today is May Day, a day of many celebrations. But in my heart the celebration of Mary, Queen of the May, is most important. And yes, I have made a shrine in her honor again this year.