From fairies to vampires, there’s more to the month of May, than meets the eye.
May is said to be inauspicious for getting married. The Pagan Festival of Beltane was held in May and marked with orgies. Then the Romans came along with their Feast of the Dead. Not a good omen for conjugal bliss.
The Anglo Saxon name for May was Tri-milchi, as the rich spring grass kept cows well fed, so they could be milked three times a day. Talk about ‘drinka pinta milka day‘.
Picture from (Manchester Libraries)
According to ancient Irish lore, fairies were at the height of their power in May. They were dangerous to babies, so people put a spent piece of coal under their cradles and scattered primroses in front of the door, as fairies could not get past flowers.
On 1 May 1840 the Penny Black was issued – the world’s first adhesive postage stamp. Interestingly it was only in circulation for a year or so, because it was too easy people for people to fiddle with the stamps and re-use them.
In medieval England May was the month for Beating the Bounds. Parishes reaffirmed the boundaries of their domain by walking in a procession round it, beating each boundary mark with a wand and praying for blessing for their land.
May is National Smile Month in the UK. No, it’s not about being nice to your neighbor but looking after your gnashers. (We suspect that there’s a secret society of dentists responsible for this one.)
In France, tradition has it that May you give your loved ones lily of the valley, to wish them good luck and happiness in spring. Apparently a 10-year-old Charles IX gave the flowers to the ladies of his court on May 1 1561, before he was crowned.
In Holland, National Windmill Day falls in May. 950 windmills and watermills around the country are decorated with flags and flowers and open their doors to visitors. I think the British version would involve chip shops or curry houses.
The first spam email was sent in May 1978. American Gary Turk sent an unsolicited message to 400 people trying to lure them to a product demo of a new computer he was selling. Thanks Gary :-\
And finally, on the 26th of May 1897 a certain sharp-toothed gentleman hit the bookshelves when Bram Stoker published Dracula.