/ The London Traveler

Coming up: May Day

May Day in Moscow is an excuse to parade your military hardware. In England, it’s the day for taking your baldric and bells, your stick and hanky, your blackface and your silly hat.

No idea what I’m talking about? Morris Dancing, of course.

This is Bristol's Jack-in-the-Green - welcoming in the spring

There will be Morris dancers out all over Britain to welcome the May Day sunrise. Probably most celebrated of the events is the Hastings [map] celebration, featuring the ‘Jack in the Green’, a leaf-covered idol representing nature, fertility, growth, or just a jolly good time. He does the rounds of the town before being ritually ‘killed’ at the end of the weekend. Hastings also hosts a biker rally over the same weekend (May 1-3) – bikers and Morris Dancers are both used to their neighbours and colleagues considering them insane, and when their paths cross they always seem pretty friendly.

May Morning in Oxford includes Morris dancing, but kicks off at sunrise (that’s about 5 am, so non-morning people, you have been warned!) with the choir of Magdalen College singing from the top of the chapel tower.

However for some strange reason, Londoners are going to be celebrating a week after everyone else, with a Morris dance extravanganza in Trafalgar Square on the 8th of May.  Proceedings will be led by the Westminster Morris Men – easily recognisable since they bear the Portcullis of Westminster on their tabards.

And you may be interested to know that in ancient English folklore, the dew on the grass on May Day is said to have special properties – apply it to your face and you will become immensely beautiful and irresistible to the opposite sex. It didn’t quite work for me, but if you want to give it a go, you might find you have better luck…

Photo by Richard Toller on flickr

Related places:
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    Hastings, Sussex
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