Holiday Traditions – May

May Day: May 1
Nurses Day: May 6
Mother’s Day: May 11
Victoria Day: May 19
Memorial Day: May 26

May Day: May 1

The Celts called May Day Beltane, the Teutons called it Walpurgis, and the Romans named it Floralia. But no matter what the title, May Day was always a time to celebrate the newness of springtime, to start the “wearing of the green,” and to rejoice in the renewal of life.

Before Christianity, May Day celebrations were agriculture festivals. As time passed, the significance was lost while the festivities survived. Celebrated widely in other parts of the world, the United States has its own May Day customs that feature flowers, fruit, sweets, and dancing around a May pole.

On May Day, children traditionally gather spring flowers, place them in baskets, and hang them on the doorknobs of loved ones. Then they ring the bell and hurry away, leaving their flowers as a surprise gift. At May Day parties kids choose May queens, dance around the maypole, and sing May Day songs.

Nurses Day: May 6

Nurses Day celebrates the contributions and commitment nurses make to the quality of health care.

The purpose of this special day is twofold: to encourage nurses and schools to work together to break down the stereotypical image of nursing, and to educate the next generation about the realities of modern nursing, midwifery, and health care.

Licensed registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and nurses aids are all included in the celebrations.

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Mother’s Day: May 11

resources_holiday_traditions_momMother’s Day is a celebration of motherhood and a day of rest for mothers. On this special day, mothers are treated to breakfast in bed, enjoy special meals made in their honor, and receive cards, chocolates, and flowers.

In the United States, Julia Ward Howe suggested the idea of Mother’s Day in 1872. Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, saw Mother’s Day as being dedicated to peace.

But it was Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, who is credited with bringing about the official observance of Mother’s Day. Her campaign to establish such a holiday began as a remembrance of her mother, who died in 1905. Jarvis’ mother had, in the late 19th century, tried to establish “Mother’s Friendship Days” as a way to heal the scars of the Civil War.

Two years after her mother died, Jarvis held a ceremony in Grafton, West Virginia, to honor her. She was so moved by the proceedings that she began a massive campaign to adopt a formal holiday honoring mothers.

In 1910, West Virginia became the first state to recognize Mother’s Day. A year later, nearly every state marked the day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

Many Mother’s Day celebrations are held throughout the world. Although they don’t all fall at the same time, countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia,Belgium, and the United States all celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day – the second Sunday of May.

Many people still wear carnations on this special Sunday — pink or red for mothers still living, and white to honor mothers who have died.

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Victoria Day: May 19

On Victoria Day, Canadians celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Although Queen Victoria’s birthday was May 24, Victoria Day is celebrated across Canada on the Monday closest to this date. In Quebec, a different holiday (Fete de Dollard des Ormeaux) is celebrated on the same day.

In Canada, the Victoria Day long-weekend marks the beginning of summer. Campsites, parks, and conservation areas are crowded with people enjoying the warmer weather. Many families host their first barbecue of the season or spend time fixing up their lawns and gardens.

As night falls, amazing firework displays light up the skies. The fireworks tradition is so common across Canada that some call this holiday “Firecracker Day.”

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Memorial Day: May 26

The first documented observance of Memorial Day occurred in Waterloo, New York on May 5, 1866. The purpose of the day was to honor those who fought in the Civil War.

Today, this holiday pays homage to Americans who died in military service. In a ceremony held each year in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery, a wreath is placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Memorial Day is also known as “Decoration Day,” as it’s customary to decorate the graves in local cemeteries with flowers and flags. To honor those who died at sea, flowers are thrown into the ocean.

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