Life in gardens: May Day

I’m a little worried that fire is going to become involved here.

The photo, “May pole dance at Miami University May Day celebration 1914 ,” is by Frank Snyder, via Frank Snyder Photograph Collection, Miami University Libraries (Oxford, Ohio) Commons on flickr.

The Maypole Dance was a common rite of spring at colleges from the late nineteenth century through the 1950s. Historian David Glassberg argues that the celebration was created (or resurrected) by turn-of-the-century progressives who bemoaned America’s lack of wholesome traditions. They believed that Puritanism had severed this country’s ties to the culture of Elizabethan England—a belief supported by a reading of Hawthorne’s short story, “The May-Pole of Merrymount.”

— Tynes Cowan, from BSC Folklore (Birmingham-Southern College)

Here in the Swabian part of Germany, many towns and villages will be celebrating the first of May like this.

Der Maibaum

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Maypole over the town of Degerloch, near Stuttgart, Germany, May 10, 2015.

In Swabia on the first of May a tall fir-tree used to be fetched into the village, where it was decked with ribbons and set up; then the people danced round it merrily to music. The tree stood on the village green the whole year through, until a fresh tree was brought in next May Day.

— Sir James Frazer, from Chapter 10, The Golden Bough

Life in gardens: Easter Monday

Life in gardens/enclos*ure: may pole dancing at WH, 1929, Library of CongressMay pole dance at the White House Easter Egg Roll, Monday, April 1, 1929, National Photo Company Collection, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

First Lady Lou Hoover added May pole and folk dancing to the annual event — but only briefly.  Apparently, the Depression was bad enough on its own.

(If you click on the photo and enlarge it, you can see the wonderfully fierce expression of one of the girls on the right side.)