Celebrating May Day in the United Kingdom

May DayA lot of folklore traditions have their origins strongly planted during the Dark Ages, and that was the pre-Christian era. Even if pagan-related celebrations are fading as Europe adopted Christianity, schools, and churches in Europe started a more secular version of observing this day. During the UK May Day, traditions and dancing the Maypole and crowning the May Queen happen.

May Day in the UK today is associated with fun, fertility, and revelry. In southern England, their traditions include Hobby Horses that rampage Dunster and Minehead and Padstow Cornwall.

If you are interested to know more about May Day in the United Kingdom, read more now.


What is May Day in the United Kingdom All About?

Like many Celtic religions, May Day in the UK is to commemorate the spring and blossoming of flowers, fruits, and good weather. There is a festival called La Bealtaine. The May Day maypole, vibrantly decorated with tall ribbons and poles attached, is a sight you will commonly see, and it reminds you of the pagan past that the UK has.

May Day is also part of the global rights movement, which is why they celebrate it. Some protests and marches take place in larger cities and Ireland towns. The contrast between these events on the same day is good, but they have their own charms.  May Day has a passive and contemplative side, and Labor Day’s vocal energy counters it.

May Day’s festivities started to become a lot of fun that in 1644, the Puritans tried to celebrate illegally and even tried to ban Maypoles. They tried to suppress any festivities or celebrations, but that was changed.

Thankfully, May Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom until today, and their traditions have a long history. In fact, the way they celebrate May Day today has become more colorful and varied that it is a big source of enjoyment on this day.


How to Celebrate May Day in the United Kingdom and Things to Do

  • There are bonfires lit to mark the Bealtaine festival, and this celebration has rituals connected to the upcoming summer months. These are driving out the cattle and going to holy wells to bring youth and beauty.
  • You can visit the Bealtaine bonfire to experience a Gaelic twist to May Day. Their May Day traditions include the May Pole, the May Bush, May Bonfires, May Boughs, and May Flowers. All of these are associated with luck and protection.
  • While you are in Ireland, you can discover the natural beauty and cultural landmarks. You can go to Dublin to see the beautiful castle, stroll around Trinity College or catch some traditional music at the Cobblestone.


How May Day in the United Kingdom is Celebrated

If you want to be part of the May Day celebration, there are a lot of places that you can visit in the country. In Whistable Kent, you can see a traditional May Day at Jack in the Green Festival. Jack in the Green has origins in flower garlands, which became a competition that expands every year until they get bigger. They decided to cover it with water completely.

Since the year 1976, the Morris dancers have always been led by leaf-covered Jack in the Green. All the musicians through town to Whitstable’s cast join in.

When you go to the Padstow in Cornwall, there is a yearly Obby-Oss (Hobby Horse) celebration reputed to be the oldest fertility UK festival.

The entire town has greenery where people dance with the Oss, and there are accordion players and followers that are singing May Day’s traditional song.

Like any other Public Holidays In the United Kingdom, there is always a May Day celebration somewhere near. Otherwise, if you want something quieter, you can do a May Day walk instead. Spring is a very good time to be out in the countryside because it is warmer, the trees and flowers are blossoming, and newborn lambs scamper around the fields. There is nothing better than going out for a quiet walk in the sunny weather to see the breath-taking view.


There is a widespread superstition that if you wash your face in the morning dew of May Day, your skin will become beautiful.

According to the Celtics, the celebration of Beltane started at sundown during the preceding day. On April 30, the Celts would always figure the days they have from sundown to sundown. They considered sundown as a time for Druids to kindle the great Bell-fires on tops of the beacon hill. These ‘need-fires’ were believed to have healing properties, and people are jumping through flames to make sure they are protected.


Venues and Special Events for Celebrating May Day in the United Kingdom

The Riding of the Bounds

Berwick-upon-Tweed holds the 401st riding of the bounds that starts at 9:30 am. The Berwick’s bounds date back to 1438, when the England and Scotland representatives agreed where the country would end and where the other began. The bounds of Berwick were patrolled since 1542. The purpose of this was to protect the town against the Scots from encroaching them. You can witness the 150 horsemen and women parading through town from the barracks towards the Guildhall before their ride continues this tradition.

Hunting of the Earl of Rone

This is probably one of the strangest things that ever happen in Britain. It is based on a fictional chapter in ‘history.’ There are a fool and hobby horse, with grenadiers, looking for the Earl of Tyrone in the village. He is captured, mounted on a donkey, and is paraded around the village. He is repeatedly shot and revived, then gets shot one last time before being thrown into the sea.

You can visit the UK during May Day and have lots of fun.

May Day in the United Kingdom