Called Beltane in the Celtic tradition, May 1st is celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere as the beginning of Summer. One of the most endearing May Day traditions is dancing around the Maypole. A Maypole can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. It can be anything from cutting down a dead tree to dance around to just climbing an existing tree and decorating it with ribbon. One year my sons climbed to the top of tall pine trees in our yard and tied ribbons to the branches.
A tall pole and plenty of beautiful ribbon
Here’s how to make a maypole:
- Look for a big branch or a dead tree or a wooden pole about 10 feet or higher.
- Dig a hole big enough and deep enough to support the pole when buried. Cement if necessary.
- You’ll need 12 to 18 feet of 1 to 2 inch wide ribbon (or streamers or cloth) for each Maypole dancer. Use a variety of colors.
- Attach or tie the ribbons to the top of the pole. One way is to make a wire wreath and attach all of the ribbons to the wreath, which can then be attached to the top of the pole. The wreath can be decorated with more ribbons and/or flowers.
Dance around the Maypole
The dance begins with each dancer holding a ribbon and standing in a circle around the maypole. Make sure there is one ribbon for each dancer.
Dancers hold their ribbons and take four steps toward the maypole and four steps back. As the dancers approach the maypole, they raise their ams and then lower them as they back away.
Next, divide the dancers into even numbered and odd numbered dancers. The even numbered dancers move clockwise around the maypole with their ribbons up while the odd numbered dancers move counter-clockwise with their ribbons down. As dancers coming in the opposite direction meet one another, the even-numbered dancers raise their ribbons slightly so that the odd-numbered dancers can duck under the raised ribbon. Music can be played and mistakes add to the fun. Once the ribbons run out, tie them together at the bottom of the pole.
About Peggy O’Mara. I am an independent journalist who edits and publishes peggyomara.com. I was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years. My books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, The Way Back Home and A Quiet Place. I have conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. I am the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please check out my email newsletter with free tips on parenting, activism, and healthy living.