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Catholic Activity: May Day


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The month of May is dedicated to Mary, an appropriate time of year, since so many plants are in blossom. The author describes a more Christianized focus for the first of May, such as Catholics wearing blossoms in honor of Mary.


No other month would seem to be better fitted for dedication to our Lady than May, the month that finally conquers winter and that sees all the spring flowers in blossom. How close the common association of Mary with the hedgerow flowers has always been one can see by the very names we still give to these flowers. Lady's smock, marigold, lady's thistle, lady's bedstraw, may blossom, are all called after Mary. Early, on the first day of her month — "the merry month" — ;it was once universal in this country to go maying, when "every man, except impediment, would walk in the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savor of sweet flowers and with the harmony of birds praising God in their kind," while they collected branches of hawthorn or may, so that there was no house door nor window, no church nor street that was not decorated with green branches. Men wore sprigs of may in their hats; women who had risen long before dawn to pick cowslips, primroses and wild violets made them into garlands and hung them up in the churches.

Why should the first of May not be the day when all Catholics wear flowers in honor of Mary? May blossom is probably one of the easiest blossoms to get hold of, but if it is impossible, then any spring flower could be worn. After all, people wear flowers and vegetation to the honor of St. George, St. Patrick, St. David and St. Andrew, so why should they not do so in our Lady's honor?

In some families it might be possible to arrange a maying expedition on the first day of the month; in clubs or schools the first Sunday of the month would probably have to be substituted. During the expedition everyone could gather as many different sorts of flowers as possible and the most perfect branches of may blossom. Formerly any member of a family who succeeded in finding a branch of may in full blossom was entitled to a prize and this element of competition could enter into the maying expedition. The flowers, when brought home, could either be given to the parish church or they could be used to decorate the statue of our Lady which most homes possess. Incidentally, anyone who organized such a maying day would immediately come up against — and have a chance to destroy — the still rampant superstition against may blossom, by which it is believed that such flowers in a home are a portent of death.

Activity Source: Candle is Lighted, A by P. Stewart Craig, The Grail, Field End House, Eastcote, Middlesex, 1945

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