“Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished.”
–Sir Francis Bacon
Common in Europe and North America, May Day is celebrated by the crowning of the May Queen; dancing around the maypole; and mumming from house to house carrying blossoms and soliciting gifts of food. Most of the activities that take place on May Day symbolize Spring, relating human fertility to crop fertility and rebirth. In the past it was common for young people to pair up, often by lot, and then gather in the woods all May Eve night.
In English folklore, May Day, Bringing in the May, and Going-A-Maying refers to the practice of going out into the countryside to gather flowers and greenery, much of which was used to adorn the May Queen. Bringing in the May remained a staple tradition throughout most of the 16th century, before it was banned by the Protestant reform-fundamentalists who took moral outrage at the unchaperoned activities of the young people. May Day was banned along with other traditional customs in the Commonwealth period, but returned after the Restoration.
Today, many of the old customs still prevail, such as woodland weddings and the gathering of morning dew for skin renewal. Horse racing, parades, and dancing around the maypole have made a comeback as have garland parties and mumming.