Leigh Hatts  

May Day

May Day 1894 (Walter Crane)

On Wednesday 1 May the calendar provides more confusion. It manages to be not only May Day but also St Philip and St James’s Day or St Joseph the Worker Day.

The May Day carol The winter’s sleep was long and deep mentions ‘two saints of God’.

But the universal calendar moved Philip and James to 3 May in 1955 to allow for May Day to be St Joseph the Worker Day giving the Virgin Mary’s husband two special days each year. We kept St Joseph’s Day during Lent.

However, Mary has the whole month. May is the Month of Mary. This tradition started in about 1826 whilst soon John Ruskin was instrumental in the spread of the May Queen custom in schools.

So May Day is the occasion to celebrate working people along with carpenter St Joseph, the coming of spring and summer and honour the Virgin Mary.

Look out for 6am tower top singing at Magdalene College Oxford, garlands being carried at 10am to church by children at nearby Charlton-on-Otmoor, the ‘Obby ‘Oss in Minehead and Padstow all day and the Green Man in Greenwich.