The Maypole Dance

May 1 is globally celebrated as May Day or International Workers’ Day. However, this day is also celebrated in the form of the Maypole Dance. Here are some fun facts –

So, what’s a maypole? A quick Google search will tell you it’s “a painted pole decorated with flowers”.People tie ribbons to the top of a maypole on this day, to mark the colourful spirit of spring.

How did people get around to dancing round the maypole?

Historically, it can be traced to Rome, Western Europe, Latin America and Northern Africa. Evidence suggests a strong link to pagan rituals in 13th century Germany.Eventually, the dance ritual spread to other parts of the world, for instance, pre-Colombian Latin America where similar ribbon dances were performed.

With time, it became an important celebration to mark the season of spring. In Scandinavia, for instance, it is called ‘MidSummer’. Fertility seems to be an important motif of this dance.

Scholars believe that it was originally a tree, perhaps, Maple, Pine, Hawthorn or Birch. Only the trunk remained and it would become symbolic for the people. Beliefs surrounding the tradition say that the tree represents masculine energy while the ribbons and flowers, feminine energy. The flowers used traditionally are Hawthorne or Lily of the Valley.

Keeping in line with this belief, dancers are usually boys and girls, each holding ribbons of different colours.Where the age group is diverse, younger dancers form the inner circle while older dancers form the outer circle.

This day has not escaped the fantastical realm either. Some people even believe that this is a day when fairies travel to Earth; rather, it’s their last chance to visit the mortal realm.

Unfortunately, and not to mention, in a bizarre development, it was even banned.

Persecution began in early 17th century. The British Parliament banned the dance because they felt it was not morally right. But it was also in the same century when it was revived under the rule of Charles II. The year was 1644. Still, certain sections of people were not happy. In 17th century New England, the Puritans viewed the Maypole Dance with suspicion which, in turn, led to fewer dances.

However, there was a shift in perception.

It is back with a bang in the modern era. Now, it marks the shift from dreary winter to a vibrant spring, the beginning of life itself.

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