American Elephants

More Than You Wanted to Know About May Day: by The Elephant's Child
May 1, 2014, 6:14 am
Filed under: Politics

Reposted from May Day 2013

It came to my attention that President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation today, to proclaim that this is Loyalty Day, 2013. Huh? I had never heard of Loyalty Day, but it appears that it began in the Eisenhower administration. How could I have missed it? Presidents issue a proclamation every year. It’s a presidential thing. But let’s go back a little:

May Day in many cultures has marked the beginning of spring, a half-year from  All Hallows, celebrating the bringing back of the light, moving the cattle out to the fields, having a big bonfire and parading the cattle around the bonfire decorated with bright yellow may flowers. The Celtic countries called it Beltane, in Germany it was pretty much the same thing except called Walpurgisnacht after an English missionary named Walpurgis, also bonfires and celebration.

Just where and when it became a May Day celebration with maypoles and baskets of flowers, I’m not sure. (I checked with Wikipedia, but didn’t pay too close attention).



In small towns, young people made little may baskets filled with flowers and hung them from a friend’s front door, then rang the bell and ran away, leaving the basket a mystery. That’s all pretty tame, and when the Soviet Union began to take over May Day to show off their military might and their solidarity, maypoles began to seem a little wimpy. Besides those Soviet parades were annoying.

May Day Soviet



mayday parade Soviet

Pretty major contrast. You can see why President Eisenhower felt that we should strengthen our image a bit, but I don’t remember ever hearing of Loyalty Day, then or now. But May Day transformed into a sort of quasi-Communist radical labor day, where the reigning image was raised fists and evincing a desire for revolution now!

May Day VT

May Day sf

MayDay WI

Britain has lots of traditional celebrations. Many include Morris Dancers, and Beltane is still being celebrated the night before. Wikipedia made the bonfires and celebrations sound quite tame, but when I went looking for images, it seemed to be lots of naked people, painted red leaping over and around a bonfire. You can look that one up yourself under Beltane. Here are Morris Dancers.


So there you go. I’ll have to admit that manning the barricades sounds a lot more exciting than a maypole.  I had to laugh at Obama’s Loyalty Day Proclamation though.

But with every step forward, we have reaffirmed our faith in the ideals that inspired our founding. We have held fast to the principles at our country’s core: service and citizenship; courage and the common good; liberty, equality, and justice for all.

This is our Nation’s heritage, and it is what we remember on Loyalty Day. It is an occasion that asks something of us as a people: to rediscover those ageless truths our Founders held to be self-evident, and to renew them in our own time. We look back to Americans who did the same, from generation to generation — citizens who strengthened our democracy, organizers who made it broader,service members who gave everything to protect it. These patriots and pioneers remind us that while our path to a more perfect Union is unending, with hope and hard work, we can move forward together.

It’s always all about him, isn’t it.

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