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The 1st May the day on which a very old tradition is still upheld in certain parts of the world. A tradition which precedes the workers day tradition, a day on which female dancers would dance around a wooden pole, plaiting ribbon around the wooden pole as they went along. This dance is called the May dance and the wooden pole is called the May Pole.

The history of the May Pole dancing goes back to Pagan times. It is believed that the tree is a phallic symbol and that the pole symbolises fertility and vitality in nature. The 1st May marked the beginning of summer and there were many festivities to mark this event. Those festivities all held in the a special location that had lots of space around it, like an open field and included the raising of the Maypole and the dance, sports and the lighting of fires.

 

The choosing and cutting of the May Pole

 

The choosing of the May Pole was a very important thing as neighbouring towns would compete to see who had the tallest and most beautiful May Pole. Great care was taken in choosing the tallest possible tree, then the bark of the tree was removed and it was smoothed down. Once the wood had been primed it was then beautifully decorated with flowers. Coloured ribbons were fastened to the top of the wooden pole before erected.

 

The May Pole dance

 

Young girls were chosen to be the dancers. They would each hold the bottom end of a ribbon and begin to dance in a circular fashion around the pole, weaving in front and behind each other as they went along so that the ribbons became plaited. Often once the dance was completed they would dance in the opposite directed to unravel the ribbons. These ladies could very well be considered the first pole dancers (tongue in cheek).

 

Still today there are many who within the Pagan cultures as well as Germanic cultures who celebrate May Day by dancing around the May Pole.