Newcastle’s Top Divorce and Family Law Specialist comments  in the Tyne Valley Express

Hard though it may be to believe, May is upon us. It seems that in these harsh times of austerity, even Spring has been subject to drastic cuts.

Nevertheless, the calendar announces that May is indeed here, and with it, apparently, the official start of Summer.  You did, in fact, hear correctly!

May Day is a tradition which can be traced back to Roman times and to the Celtic festival of Beltane.  The Roman festival, Floralia, was held between 28th April and 3rd May and both festivals symbolized the renewal of the cycle of life, and the beginning of summer.

Whilst many pagan festivals were subsequently merged into Christian celebrations, May Day became largely a secular celebration, noted in England for its maypoles, morris dancers, and May Queens.

Whilst the origin of the maypole remains unknown, the May Queen is accepted as a representation of the Roman Goddess, Flora, whose role it is to preside over the celebrations.

The festival was always a day of holiday: originally, it was a time when the sowing of seeds was complete and therefore a convenient time to give workers a day’s holiday.  Later, with the arrival of the industrial revolution, workers in many countries campaigned for better working hours and conditions, and strikes took place on 1st May.   Today, 1st May is a national holiday in more than 80 countries and celebrated unofficially in many other countries, known alternately as Labour Day or International Workers’ Day. You may recall the huge May Day parades in Soviet Russia, or the protests in London and other major cities in recent years staged by the anti-capitalist movement.

You may also be interested to know that it was as recently as 1978 that the celebration was declared to be a Bank Holiday in this country, so that it is now celebrated on the first Monday in May rather than the first day, and everyone is entitled to a day’s holiday.

In these challenging times, with lack of money, employment, and state assisted support repeatedly topping the current affairs agenda, it may feel that there is little to celebrate.

Whilst there are always plenty of bank holiday events organised around the region, it took some hunting to track down a traditional May Day event.  It seems that the Thomas Bewick Birthplace Museum at Cherryburn will be the place to be in Northumberland this May Day if you want to see maypole dancing and the crowning of a May Queen.

But remember: even a trip to the garden centre on bank holiday weekend can be a small nod to the origins of the May Day celebrations. Acknowledge the wonder of creation in all the beautiful fronds and blooms, and maybe just stop for a moment to focus on all that we have in our life that is wondrous and precious, instead of complaining about all that we do not have.

And take consolation in the fact that May is a bounteous month for bank holidays at least, with another one just around the corner!

Joanne Major is owner of Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne.  Twitter@majorfamilylaw

Tel: 01661 82 45 82