Question:  What is May Day?  Answer: An Opportunity to Express Your Irish Side!

If you have ever asked yourself:  What is May Day?  You have come to the right place!   On the first of May every single year, much of the world is involved in a Spring festival, often treated as a public holiday.

Young person performing traditional Maypole dance with colored ribbons.

In Ireland, many villages hold communal meals to reinforce a feeling of community and kinship.  Because May Day coincides with International Worker’s Day, many will also attend labour day parades or celebrations in the larger cities.

What is May Day?  Traditions...

May Day is an age old holiday that actually made its appearance during the pre-Christian days during the festival of Flora.  It is also strongly related and associated with the Gaelic holiday of Beltane.

During May Day celebrations, bonfires were lit to mark the coming summer, and to banish those long nights associated with winter.  Other more modern May Day traditions include maypole dancing, and the crowning of the May Day queen.

Many Roman Catholics practice a version of the holiday in which they observe ‘Mary’s Month’. This practice celebrates the Virgin Mary, complete with children's art and school skits.  In this tradition, Mary’s head is often adorned with flowers, a May crowning.

What is May Day?  May Baskets...

May baskets are an old tradition that seem to have faded during the late 20th century, but can still be found from time to time.

The May Basket is a flower filled basket handed out by both adults and children, in celebration of the season.

These baskets can be given to anyone, whether they are friends, family, or simply left anonymously on a neighbor’s doorstep.

What is May Day?  The Maypole...

A Maypole is a tall pole adorned with colorful ribbons that are fixed to the top of the pole.  The opposite ends of the ribbons are held by dancers at ground level.  During the dance, the ribbons are weaved into beautiful patterns.

While the maypole tradition has faded with time, it was once associated with fertility and the start of the courting season.

What is May Day?  May Day Crafts...

One of the more popular May Day crafts is the May basket we discussed a moment ago...

Other popular crafts include the spring flower mobile, and the paper flower vase.  These beautiful creations require only the simplest of materials, and are an engaging way to involve children in a historical and meaningful springtime tradition.

What is May Day In Ireland?

Well, first of all it is a public holiday.  It is also the modern version of ancient traditions  celebrating the coming of spring and the beginning of the courting season. 

The first day of May is designated International Worker's Day, giving us a second reason to celebrate the day (although the two reasons are clearly not related!).

As with any other Irish public holiday, banks, post offices, and most other businesses are closed on the first Monday of May.  Some exceptions include public transport services, gas stations and yes ... neighborhood pubs.

Want More Irish Traditions?

It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish traditions!  Expressing ourselves through Irish-themed activities gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

Over the years, we have created many free, downloadable Irish games, puzzles, recipes, songbooks, travel guides, party plans, and much, much more.

These are immediately available to you - completely free of charge.

Just scroll to the bottom of the page and share your email address to get instant access!

Interesting!  Where Can I Learn More?

At Irish Expressions, our our goal is simple: to provide you with a unique Irish experience, on demand, wherever you are in the world.

If you have enjoyed our section on fun Irish trivia and customs, you have probably been exposed to many of the most exciting traditions that Ireland has to offer!

Will that entice you to visit Ireland - or to return if you have already been? 

We hope so!  

But even if that is not possible, you can still enjoy the magic of Ireland in these pages.  Check out the links at the top of the page for simple instructions on how to explore Irish landmarks, sing Irish songs, enjoy Irish food, and much more!