Not just an old European tradition, Allison Thompson’s book describes how, starting in the early 1830s, American girls and women began to hold Old English May Day festivals, complete with maypole dances, the crowning of a May Queen, and romantic plays and pageants. These festivals accelerated in popularity after 1900 at colleges and universities across the country. An important part of the traditional college experience for many women, the celebrations played a surprisingly influential role in the Progressive reform movement.
May Day Festivals in America, 1830 to the Present is a thorough history that examines the creation and development of the traditional American May Day festival. It also provides an overview of May Day celebrations at 80 specific college and universities, eight of which continue to celebrate the festival annually. The Society of Folk and Dance Historians calls the book “a model of organization and scholarship, with each well-researched chapter building on the previous to paint a clear and logical portrait of May Day celebrations…fascinating insights…well-researched and well-written, packed with information and illustrations…you must read this book.”
For more about the Celtic roots of the day, take a look at Sharon Paice MacLeod’s Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs and The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe: Goddesses, Sacred Women and the Origins of Western Culture.