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Festival Calendar

May Celebrations

Find myth- and Mythic Journeys-related events on our
Annual Calendar

May 1 — Beltane, May Day
Ancient spring rites that related human fertility to crop fertility gave birth to most modern May Day festivities. May 1 is the traditional day to crown the May queen, dance around the maypole, perform mummers' plays, and generally celebrate the return of spring. In Great Britain, the custom of "bringing in the May" involves gathering "knots," or branches with buds, on the eve or early morning of May 1. Read more about Beltane rites.

May 2 —Full Moon
The Britons called it the Milk Moon. Native Americans named it the Flower Moon. It is also called the Corn Planting Moon, the Corn Moon, the Milk Moon, and the Hare's Moon. In India it is celebrated as Buddha Purnima, the moon of Buddha..

May 5 — Cinco de Mayo
Celebrate Mexican independance on Cinco de Mayo with music, dance, fireworks, and good food. This spicy recipe for guacamole with a came from our Farmer's Almanac.

4 large avocados;
1 cup roasted corn kernels;
juice of one medium lime;
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped;
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped, or to taste;
1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste;
1 teaspoon salt
Coarsely mash (do not puree) the avocados. Fold in remaining ingredients. Squeeze the lime juice into the mixture. Serve with blue corn chips or deep-fried flour tortilla chips. Makes about 24 servings.

May 5 — 132nd Running of the Kentucky Derby
United States
America's most famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby, has been held continuously since 1875 in Louisville, Kentucky, and has become one of the country's largest civic celebrations (and betting opportunities). Not bad when you consider that the event lasts only two minutes! The Derby is the first event in the "Triple Crown" series, followed by the Preakness (the second Saturday after the Derby) and the Belmont Stakes (the fifth Saturday after the Derby).

Bun towersMay 9 - 12 — Cheung Chau Festival (Bun Hill)
Hong Kong
This four-day festival takes place on one of the small islands of Hong Kong. Traditionally, large bamboo structures several stories high were piled with sweet buns. The bun towers are located in front of the Pak Tai temple, built in 1783 to commemorate the Pak Tai, the Taoist God of the Sea. (There are several temples in Hong Kong honoring the Pak Tai who, according to legend, threw the prince of evil out of heaven. Of greater importance to Cheung Chau's inhabitants, however, is his reputed role in driving away pirates who had launched a series of attacks on the island. According to local lore, the attacks ceased once the temple was built.) The bun festival appeases with food and burnt paper offerings the wandering spirits of islanders killed by pirates. The festival falls just before the start of the fishing season, so honoring the god is one way to ensure fair weather and a good catch. After the bun towers are blessed, the buns are handed out to the people on the final day of the festival. Traditionally, men competed in a race to climb up the towers and grab as many buns as possible. In 1978, one of the towers collapsed, injuring several people. The tragic accident forced authorities to cancel the competition, which was revived the competition in 2005. To ensure the safety of participants and spectators, the towers are now made of steel covered with bamboo scaffolding, and prospective bun-climbers must take a training course to learn basic mountaineering skills. If you attend this festival, know that the entire island is vegetarian for three days prior to the festivities.

Martyred saints Mammertius, Gervatius and Pancratius May 11 - 13 — Three Chilly Saints
These three days were named for three early Christian martyrs, St. Mammertius, Saint Pancratius and Saint Gervatius, whose respective feast days occur on May 11, 12, and 13. They mark the last cold spell before planting season begins. "In the middle of May comes the tail of winter." Before global warming, parts of Europe were rather cold throughout the month of may, and so we have the legend of the "Three Icy Men".

May 13 — Mother's Day
United States
The tradition of "Mothering Sunday" began in England during the 16th century. One Sunday was set aside for visiting your mum. The entire family got together, but it was the eldest child's responsibility to bring a "mothering cake" for all to share. Family members also took over all of the household chores for the day, including preparing a special dinner in honor of the matron of the house. Ann M. Jarvis reconceived the idea to honor mothers in 1907, and by 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated nationwide. The Mother's Day International Association took up the cause of promoting the holiday worldwide. France and Sweden celebrate Mother's Day on the last Sunday of May. Children give their mothers gifts, husbands cook breakfast, and cards and calls are made to moms who are far away. More phone calls are logged on this day than any other. Call your mama!

May 19 — St. Dunstan's Day
Legend tells the tale of St. Dunstan who made a deal with the devil to spare apple and pear blossoms from late frosts nine years out of ten. In the tenth year, there was a frost on this day.

May 21 — Victoria Day
Canada and Great Britain
The British always celebrate the birthday of the ruling monarch but, after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, her devoted Canadian subjects continued to honor her memory on her birthday with parades and celebrations. It was seen as a sign of loyalty to the realm. Since Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819, and the present queen of Great Britain, Elizabeth II, was born on April 21, 1926, both birthdays are commemorated on this date, formerly known as Empire Day. This holiday also marks the beginning of gardening season in many parts of Canada.

May 28 — Memorial Day
United States
This holiday was formerly called Decoration Day, a time to visit cemetaries, clean the tombstones, and place flowers and wreathes in rememberance of those who gave their lives in battle for their country. Much of the original meaning of this holiday has been lost, with people using the 3-day weekend for vacations, shopping, family gatherings and picnics. Memorial Day is seen as the unofficial launch of summer. The running of the Indianapolis 500 motor race takes place on this day.