Memories of ribbons make May Day special

May 1 is May Day, which falls roughly halfway between the spring equinox in March and the summer solstice in June. In my memory, May Day is aflutter with long lengths of yellow, white or pale blue satin ribbon attached to the top of a maypole rigged to the stage of the elementary school I attended as a child. The dance was part of the school’s spring program that showed off what we had learned in our music classes. Our teacher played a lively tune on the piano and in our dance we wove the ribbons around the pole, then reversed the process. I recall wearing a dress with a skirt wide enough to twirl out from my waist. I remember how I concentrated on where I was in the ribbon weaving process, repeating under my breath, “Over, under, over, under,” lifting or lowering the ribbon scrunched in my hand. I didn’t want to be the one who did an over when it should have been an under and mess up the symmetry of the braid around the maypole. At the end of our performance we faced our audience of parents, relatives and townspeople. The girls curtsied and the boys bowed and we grinned in the heartfelt applause.

I don’t recall that anyone pointed out to us that May Day, the maypole and May baskets were rituals rooted deeply in the pagan world. We didn’t know the the maypole dance had been passed down to us from our Celtic ancestors, not that it mattered. It was spring. Heavy coats and rubber boots had been put away. Summer vacation loomed on the immediate horizon. We were children and hadn’t yet perceived that we were, indeed, a tiny segment on the timeline of history. We had no inkling that we were the next generation to carry forward in some small fashion the rituals of May Day.

The importance of May Day could not have escaped us, though we were too young to put it into words. But we felt it in the strength of the sun’s rays, breathed it in when the the jonquils bloomed, saw it and heard it when robins listened for worms and filled the day with with song. The season of dormancy had ended, we knew that in our very cells. All creatures, plant and animal, were busy bringing another generation of their species into the world. A whole lot of weaving was going on in the task of nest building. The braiding was more difficult to see, but it was there in the way the creatures of Earth intertwined with to one another. The sacred was all around us and we were a part of it. We sensed it in the sunlight, in the wildness of the grass, in the shadows under the maples and elms that lined the streets of our town.

We as knitters and needleworkers are part of of the magic of May Day. We have at hand daily reminders of our connection to nature. The wool we use binds us to sheep and other creatures that produce fleece. Our use of cotton and linen yarns and our wood and bamboo knitting needles tie us to the plant world.

May Day is a good day to smile at the heavens and be glad for everything Earth gives us.


The fourth annual Beads and Baubles Downeast: Spring Bead and Jewelry Show will be held noon-7 p.m. Friday, May 4, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at the Ellsworth Ramada Inn, Schoodic Room off the lobby entrance, 215 High St. The selection of beads available at the show will include pearls, gemstones, Czech glass, handmade polymer clay beads, lampwork glass, Swarovski crystal, Fair Trade Beads, porcelain and felt beads, silver and gold beads, seed beads and findings and beading supplies. The show will feature more than 20 vendors, including area bead shops and several local jewelers working in gold and silver, gemstones and intricate beadwork. For information, contact Christina Heiniger at 664-2404, email or visit

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153 or email