No kidding. What to believe? What to celebrate? It’s changed so much over the last sixty years that I’m just going to wait and have my margaritas on May 5th. Cinco de Mayo.
Before the Christians (we’re talking Catholics mainly…they made up their own silly stuff before the other guys saw the value in starting their own churches) May Day was a very cool thing. It was a huge celebration throughout Europe, starting of course with the crazy Romans who dedicated the day to Flora, goddess of flowers.
Basically May 1st was celebrated as the first day of summer. Big holiday with dancing, music and cake. Gotta have cake.
Since it was mostly those damn pagans having all the fun, the Church decided to get in on it. Just like they did for Christmas and Easter. Take a holiday everybody celebrates and make some story up about that special day so Catholics will take part and get to have fun too.
So the church had a brilliant plan. May 1st would be a special celebration for St. Joseph the Worker. The Patron saint of workers. The church had enough leverage to convince farmers to give workers the day off. The seeds were already planted so let’s honor the worker. More flowers, maypoles, the whole shebang. They had cake, too.
Then those damn Communist pagans did a “one-up.” In the late 19th century they decided to also honor the worker. The socialist/communist worker. It was called “The International Worker’s Day.”
So I’m in Catholic grade school in 1955 and those damn Communists are having fun with our May 1st “Feast of St. Joseph Day.”
Damn the Communists!
So good old Pope Pius XII came up with a great idea. He said to hell with St Joseph, let’s make that the “Blessed Virgin Mary Day.” I mean…come on…A Worker? or A Virgin? Virgin wins every time. Take that you communists!
Well, since the Pope, like Amy, is infallible we jumped aboard the Virgin thing and our girl classmates learned to make little flower wreaths for Mary statues, but unfortunately it became another day we had to go to long church services and sing special Mary songs and recite Mary poems and Mary prayers.
Other countries, cities and towns carry on their own May Day celebrations. In England at Oxford it’s traditional to gather at the Great Tower of Magdalen College and sing a bunch of silly madrigal songs and then everybody runs and jumps off the Magdalen Bridge. Since the 1970s the police have closed the bridge because of the serious injuries to the jumpers. The water is only two feet deep.