May 1 marks a popular festival, May Day. In some cultures, especially in Europe, May Day is celebrated as a traditional spring holiday. May Day is related to the Germanic festival Walpurgis as well as the Celtic Beltane.
The history of May Day dates back to pre-Christian times. In fact, the Romans held a festival to honor Flora, the goddess of flowers. Walpurgis, marked with bonfires, marks the half-year of All Saints Day, another European tradition. Beltane, also observed via bonfire, observed the beginning of summer.
Most European countries today celebrate May Day with picnics and gatherings. The may pole serves as the center of many of these gatherings. In fact, in Britain, people go “a-Maying,” to collect flowers and greenery to decorate the may pole.
The British Kate Greenaway captured this tradition in her illustration “May Day.” Greenaway (1846 to 1901) illustrated children’s books. She was known for drawing young children in Regency fashions, or her take on them anyway.