Upbeat music filled the air on campus. May Day, the springtime celebration of fertility and joy, was in full swing at CCAT. Smiling faces crowned in flower wreaths welcomed visitors to the house. Anticipation was building.
The front lawn of the Campus Center for Appropriate Technologies was covered in yellow hay. The sun shone over people gathered there, warming hearts and heads. Funky music rolled across the yard, digging deep into people’s souls. There was a pep in everybody’s step as they danced around the yard. May Day is a celebration of rebirth and revitalization. Students and families crowded around tables to weave themselves flower crowns, dressing themselves in natural beauty.
Sean Armstrong introduced May Day with passion. He stood above the crowd with his corn blond hair blowing in the wind as he wove an image of May Day. Armstrong said humans have been celebrating May Day for five thousand years. May Day is a celebration of fertility and rebirth, of sexuality and community. May Day marks the beginning of spring and traditionally pays homage to Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring. May Day is ultimately a celebration of one and all.
“Spring is a non-optional time of renewal,” Armstrong said. “Today is a moment of optimism. This place is about regeneration and optimism. We have a ‘world gets better perspective’ and we trust in a future of growth.”
CCAT offered a whole bouquet of May Day themed activities. Piles of flower clippings were set out on tables so people could make themselves a wreath of flowers to wear. The wreaths were crowns accentuating natural beauty. Bright blues, fiery reds and striking yellows were set in rings of ivy and grass. Abigail Lowell shared why flowers were celebrated on May Day.
“A flower is beauty,” Lowell said. “Flowers are one of humans definitions of beauty. Humans have always considered flowers to be the foundation of beauty.”
Lowell wore a light blue dress to match her light blue eyes at the May Day festival. The weather was kind enough to copy Lowell and grace the celebration with a bright blue sky to boot. Girls danced and twirled in flowery dresses to the funky music. After a while a hush fell over the crowd, the music slowed down when Armstrong took the stage to introduce the May Pole.
The May Pole is a symbol of the potency of the god. For lack of a better term it is a phallic birch pole set straight into the ground. Attached to the top of the pole green, red, yellow, blue and orange ribbons streamed down into the hands of excited people around the base.
“I met my wife at a May Day celebration right here on CCAT’s lawn,” Armstrong said. “The whole day build up to this great release. You know, there’s flirting, there’s drinking, there’s feasting. We can pay attention to the spring season and celebrate it.”
The music kicked up again. Half of the dancers began to skip around the pole. Every other person walked towards the center of the pole and danced in the other direction. The inner circle and the outer circle wove in and out between one another. At the climax of the dance the May Pole was wrapped in an intricate lattice of color. As the weave tightened around the pole, flowers were tucked into the ribbons. What resulted was a rainbow braid adorned with bright flowers and surrounded by smiling faces.
If only the sensation of May Day could be pressed and preserved forever. Alas, just as the celebration recognizes change the day’s sky began to change as the sun set. Sebastian Forward, CCAT’s organic gardener and future botanist, did his best to save the day. He was teaching CCAT’s visitors how to press plants and flowers.
“Pressing plants gives you something tangible when photos and drawings just won’t cut it,” Forward said. “We can preserve plants for over 100 years. Pressed plants show us what the plant was like the day it was pressed. We can still see what the little hairs look like under the microscope.”
May Day celebrated the transition of winter to spring. As plants bloom they herald fruits to come. Chirping birds and buzzing bees sat on branches while they watched humans dance around a field of hay celebrating life and joy. Celebrate this time of year with happiness and love. Show compassion to those around you. Stop and smell the roses, spring has come.
“It was heartfelt,” Lowell said. “Everybody was talking to one another. There were no inhibitions. The bright colors livened everybody up. We felt community. I liked it.”