Celebrating May Day

Twentieth century American naturalist Edwin Way Teale expressed a sentiment many would agree with: “The world’s favorite season is the spring./ All things seem possible in May.” Spring brings us many signs of hope and celebration – graduations, recitals, flowers, baseball, picnics. We’re in the thick of that season.

For thousands of years, May 1 has been welcomed with dancing and singing. If Maypoles and May baskets seem quaint these days, we still appreciate the blooming flowers and the hopeful attitudes.

A few hundred years ago, the Puritans banned the celebration of May Day. I suppose they saw the holiday as frivolous and tied in with pagan debauchery. Of course, Puritans, having colonized New England had a huge influence over what the country was to become.

Puritans were not the only colonizers, though. Thomas Morton came to Massachusetts in 1624 and claimed that the colony had two types of people – Christians and Infidels. He much preferred the latter. He called them ‘most full of humanity, and more friendly than the other.’ The Puritans received the blunt edge of his mockery; he played the Stephen Colbert of his day. He praised the Native people and organized a rebellion of indentured servants against his own business partner.

Unable to endure the Plymouth Plantation, he established another colony, Merrymount, where on May 1, 1627, he had a huge Maypole erected and threw a tremendous “Merrie Olde England” party. Governor William Bradford refused to let it happen again, sending armed men to the party the next year, arresting Morton. Despite the arms, no one shot. Morton’s claim was they didn’t want to spill blood; the Puritans said the Merrymount folks were too drunk to fight. If you want to know more of the decades long struggles between Morton and the Puritans, check out this article http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/maypole-infuriated-puritans/.

Our history is never so simple as we think. There have always been resisters, and always will be. And therein lies some of the hope.

In faith and freedom,


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