Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! —William Butler Yeats
Yeah, I know, that wasn’t exactly what you were expecting, was it? But yes, this is the Greek Orthodox Easter. Enjoy the highly decorated eggs.
For everyone else, Happy May Day! You now have a choice for how to spend your day: will you dance or will you protest?
One of the few memories I have of first grade is our May Day celebration. The music teacher organized the event complete with a Maypole, and flowers, and dancing, and May baskets. I remember the bright colors of the Maypole and how much fun it was to dance with all my classmates to the cool music of the lute. We were really into lutes when I was six. I also remember how proud I was of the woven construction paper basket that, somewhat unbelievably now, the teacher filled with candy and flowers with instructions for us to take them home and give them to our mothers. What’s unbelievable about that is not only that the teacher gave us fresh-cut daffodils and candy, but that the candy actually made it home!
There really is no accurate dating of when May Day celebrations began. They are unique to the Northern Hemisphere because if one lives in the Southern Hemisphere one is getting ready for winter, not Summer. The general consensus seems to be that by May 1 all of the plantings would have likely been done and it was a good day for everyone to take a break, celebrate life, and, oh yeah, sex. Pagans tended to be rather big on that part, even though there is some debate over whether that was an actual ritual or not. They called the day Beltaine and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
After centuries of dancing, though, the day took on new meaning during the 19th century when workers chose that day to strike for better working conditions and ultimately a 40-hour work week. Those protests have expanded over the years to include most every form of political statement one would want to make. All over the world today, marches are scheduled in protest of government action, government inaction, and a lack of basic rights and living conditions. Some of the strongest may come in Venezuela where the government ordered clocks set 30 minutes ahead, among other measures, to help save electricity. Greece also seems to be a likely target for protests as the combination of economic and immigration problems keep the country in distress.
The difference between the two ways of commemorating the day is striking. One, the oldest, has a positive message and attitude, one born of joy and celebration, anticipation for the future. The other is born of anger, resentment, and frustration at one’s condition. The two don’t remotely go together. This means we have a choice. Are our efforts best served in the pursuit of dance and happiness and maybe even a little frivolity? Or is our time better spent raising our voice against injustice?
Personally, I choose to dance for a couple of reasons. One, dancing in circles is the one dance I can do well. Give me a brightly colored piece of ribbon tied to a pole and I’ll dance until we’re both dizzy. Second, I’m not convinced smaller protests matter any more. Politicians are too dismissive. The only time a protest seems to work is when the crowd is large enough to be genuinely threatening, and no one in Indiana is quite that passionate about a damn thing. So, dancing seems to make a lot more sense, doesn’t it?
I invite you to dance with me, if you will. We actually have wood in the fire pit, but after yesterday’s rains, I’m going to assume it’s all soaked. And I don’t have a pole or brightly colored strips of cloth. We can still dance, though, even if it decides to rain. Dancing is never a bad use of a Sunday.
Go ahead. Indulge. Dance.