Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

And we’re into May. From the Latin ‘Maius’, the Italic goddess, daughter of Faunus and wife of Vulcan1“The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology”. Edited by T. F. Hoad. Oxford University Press. Reissued 2003. ISBN 978-0-283098-2..

Mayday was a traditional day in Yorkshire farming practices when agricultural tenancies were changed, “the spring crops being likewise sown by the outgoing tenant, and valued with the wheat“, and “stock are turned into pasture grounds … and there remain impounded, until Michaelmas2“The Rural Economy of Yorkshire: Compromising the Management of Landed Estates and the Present Practice of Husbandry in the Agricultural Districts of that County”. United Kingdom, G. Nicol, 1796..

It’s also a old English festival that was, like Christmas, banned during Cromwell’s Puritan parliament. Celebrations on Mayday involved crowning a May Queen and dancing with ribbons around a maypole on the village green although this seems to have been more popular in the southern counties3Wikipedia Contributors. “May Day.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 May 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day#England. Accessed 1 May 2021..

Special flowers, celebrated for their protective powers, such as Marsh Marigold, were picked on May eve and made into garlands or simply strewn round the houses the next day, Mayday, to protect against evil, fairies and witches4“Voice of the Moors”, The magazine of the North Yorkshire Moors Association. Issue 119. Spring 2015. .

Mayday is also the emergency internationally recognised word, used as a distress signal in radio communications. But this has nothing to do with the month of May. It is an Anglicisation of the French “m’aidez” meaning “help me”5Wikipedia Contributors. “Mayday.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Apr. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayday. Accessed 1 May 2021.. Don’t forget if you need to call for help, you should say it three times “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday”.

  • 1
    “The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology”. Edited by T. F. Hoad. Oxford University Press. Reissued 2003. ISBN 978-0-283098-2.
  • 2
    “The Rural Economy of Yorkshire: Compromising the Management of Landed Estates and the Present Practice of Husbandry in the Agricultural Districts of that County”. United Kingdom, G. Nicol, 1796.
  • 3
    Wikipedia Contributors. “May Day.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 May 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day#England. Accessed 1 May 2021.
  • 4
    “Voice of the Moors”, The magazine of the North Yorkshire Moors Association. Issue 119. Spring 2015.
  • 5
    Wikipedia Contributors. “Mayday.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Apr. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayday. Accessed 1 May 2021.

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