When I was a little girl, I received a book of my grandmother’s that was printed in 1910. It was entitled Dimples Dallas, and on the cover it showed sweet blonde-haired Dimples in an Edwardian white dress with blue sash standing in front of a colorful Maypole. Ever since I read that book, I was in love with May Day as a holiday, because Dimples was so pretty and the party looked like so much fun.
It may be crazy to be so inspired by something like that, but I was. So if you or your daughter is enamored of pretty garden parties, you may want to host a May Day celebration of your own. This could be a wonderful theme for a small gathering or for a large school, neighborhood, club or church group.
May Day has been celebrated since the time of the Egyptians. Festivals honoring the arrival of spring existed in many ancient cultures–for example the Romans observed a five-day festival to honor the Goddess Flora and the coming of the sunshine, longer days, and the rebirth of the earth with flowers and trees. It harkens back to an earlier time period when flowers, feasting and dancing were part of a community’s celebration. You don’t hear as much about May Day as you once did, which may mean it is a perfect time to revive it for you and your friends.
Invitations can be made using vintage May Day postcards, printed from the Internet, as illustrations, or you can attach your party details to a small spring bouquet to be hand-delivered to your guests. You should plan a rain-date or an alternate location if the weather is rainy on the planned day of your party.
Invite your guests to attend in bright spring-like colors. If you are trying to achieve an Edwardian vintage feel to your party, ask your guests to dress up in white if possible and to wear spring hats and gloves
Traditionally May Day events are held outdoors in a field or woods, or nowadays in a large backyard. But make a plan for an alternate location if it rains.
Decorating a Maypole is a very old custom. Wreathing any tall pole with long, bright paper or ribbon streamers and fresh or silk flowers. Encourage your guests to take hold of the streamers, intertwining them as they dance around the Maypole.
Elect a May Queen and provide her with a crown and scepter. You may want to elect a court of ladies-in-waiting for the queen. A podium or circle of chairs where the queen and her court can sit would make a lovely centerpiece to your party space.
If your guests are dressed up, you can have a parade with the May Queen and her court and your guests processing. Prior to the parade, you could have craft stations for your guests to make colorful paper chains, flower garlands or flower arches to carry. Flower arches can be made by cutting hula hoops or other bendable plastic tubes in half, covering the tubes with fresh, paper or silk flowers, and then having two guests each carry one end of the arch between them. Other guests could even walk under the arches in the parade. Be sure to have a sound system playing joyful majestic music for the guests to march to–that creates such a lovely ambience.
May baskets are another holiday tradition where individuals make paper cone-shaped baskets to fill with spring flowers and hang on the door of someone special. These cone-shaped baskets are easy to make by rolling 8.5×11 sheets of pastel paper into horns of plenty, stapling them together and then stapling handles of one-inch strips of paper on as handles. You can add paper doilies and flowers, before secretly leaving the basket on the front door of your friends or loved ones. You can have supplies and flowers for your guests to make their own May baskets to give away. You might also ask your guests to bring “decorated” May baskets to the party where you can give prizes for the prettiest, most creative and so forth. After you award prizes to the winners, their baskets can be taken to the doors of neighbors or to a nursing facility for the residents there.
Old-world type of dance, a Morris dancer was a popular May Day entertainment. You may be able to hire a troupe of Morris dancers or an instructor to teach your guests some simple steps. Square dancing is similar in some ways to Morris dancing, so you may want to hire a caller to teach your guests.
Amateur theatricals were also popular at May Day celebrations, so see if you can involve some of your guests in skits or hire some high school drama students to put on a one-act play. The game Charades could also entertain your guests.
Modern-day outdoors activities celebrating spring can include flying kites, throwing Frisbees, playing volleyball, badminton or croquet, or having archery or darts contests.
Menu items for this kind of party could appropriately include tea and punch, fruit, finger sandwiches and sweets like cookies, tarts and cakes. These tea party-style refreshments lend an elegant look to your buffet table. Try using a pretty punch bowl and tiered servers. Setting up these items on buffet tables that could be accessed by the guests between the different activities is probably the easiest way to serve.
So if you or someone special wants an elegant but active and fun party, try a May Day celebration outdoors. Soak up the clean scent of flowers and fresh air and welcome springtime! Enjoy!