May Day - an ancient festival of Spring and a current traditional spring holiday in many European cultures with many Catholics practising May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The best known modern May Day traditions, include dancing around the maypole and crowning the Queen of May. Ancient traditions also used to include the giving of 'May baskets' which usually contained sweets or flowers and were left anonymously on neighbours' doorsteps.
Lily of the Valley (around since before 1,000 BC) and also known as 'May bells' or 'Our Lady's tears', in art is considered a sign of Christ's second coming. In France people still give each other a Lily of the Valley on 1st May which dates back to 1 May 1561, when King Charles IX of France received a Lily of the Valley as a lucky charm and decided to offer a Lily of the Valley each year to the ladies of the court. They are also still worn in Helston, Cornwall on Flora Day (8th May) to celebrate the coming of spring/summer and are one of the most fragrant blooming plants of this time of the year, with lance-shaped green leaves and dainty white, nodding bell-shaped flowers that exude my favourite perfume. I also love this poem below which is really evocative of the time of year:-
May Day in England by Aaron Marchant
'May day in England, the sun smiling wide
new leaf unfurling and catkins beside
wildflowers dancing like children at play
All this can be seen on an English May day
The melodious robin competes with song thrush
The bees sizzle past in their nectar-drunk rush
the church bells are pealing 'Go love while you may'
sweet are the sounds of an English May day
Ramsons and wood sorrel freshen the breeze
the blossoming hawthorn and horse chestnut trees
Bluebell profusion in perfumed array
Sublime is the scent of an English May day
Courting butterflies rest on the sycamore leaves
The swallows renew their nest under the eaves
Kissing couples hold hands as they swoon and they sway
The world falls in love on an English May day.'