Beltane – May Day

Bring in May! It is time to gather flowers! Create your own May basket! Read a spring book!
May Day was a pagan festival to mark the return of spring in ancient Celtic/Gaelic traditions. Quarter day festivals celebrate the change of seasons, each with special rituals and symbols (Imbolic, Beltane, Lagnnasadh, Samhuinn). May first was the first day of summer (hence the solstice June 21st is Midsummer), and many bonfires were lit to mark a time of purification and transition. The community bonfire also supplied the flame to renew each home hearth with hope of good harvest, health and to bring good luck. It was the second most important festival of the Druids.

Celebrate the Return of the Sun:
Various traditional May Day celebrations included the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, Morris dancers (who wake Jack in the Green-I always think of Jethro Tull and will be playing this music!), crowning the queen of May, and decorating the Maypole, around which people danced. May Day, is a day on which you should wash your face with morning dew at sunrise to keep yourself looking young and beautiful. You should also gather wildflowers and green branches, make floral garlands and bouquets with ribbons to decorate your home. May baskets were a particular charm, small bouquets that were left anonymously on a doorstep as a token of the season, although if you caught the person, you got a kiss. Lily of the valley and violets were often used; the lily of the valley is also commonly called May flower and is a lucky charm. Flowers were pressed in books and given as gifts. Both fragrance and pressed plants recalled the token years later when you revisit the book. Bookmarks are often of flowers and make a delightful gift at this time of year.

April was Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month
Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
If it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know it is poetry.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish writer, poet and essayist said “Wine is bottled poetry.”
Perhaps now is time to pair a bottle of the Library wine, with a loaf of bread, a poem, and your sweetheart!

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress was created on April 25, 1800. In a Congressional bill that provided for the transfer of our nation’s capital from Philadelphia to Washington, there was a provision for a reference library containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress — and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein …” Originally the library was housed in the Capitol building, until British troops burned it in 1814. Thomas Jefferson replaced it with his own personal library: nearly 6,500 books, the result of 50 years’ worth of “putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science.” I have always loved his quote “I cannot live without books.” Indeed a lovely friend just gave it as a plaque to me and it hangs on my computer.

First opened to the public in 1897, the Library of Congress is now the largest library in the world. It houses more than 144 million items, including 33 million catalogued books in 460 languages; more than 63 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of films, legal materials, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings.

It is a fabulous place to visit, to do research (read the author of My Name is Mary Sutter experiences in the Library of Congress), to just be aware of our nation’s history.

Easter

Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). The dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

The Easter Bunny or Easter Hare (sometimes Spring Bunny in the politically correct U.S.) originated in Alsace and Upper Rhineland, Germany (sometime in the 1500s). The bunny brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy and sometimes gifts to the homes of good children. I always got a book!! The Easter Bunny was introduced to the United States by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 18th century.

The arrival of the Easter Bunny was considered one of “childhood’s greatest pleasures”. Traditionally, children would build brightly colored nests, often out of caps and bonnets, in secluded areas of their homes. The Easter Bunny would lay brightly colored eggs in the nest of good children. In time, nests became the modern Easter baskets; placing of the nest in a secluded area has become the tradition of hiding baskets. Our family always hid the eggs outdoors, in the lawn, into the woods (never in my mother’s flower beds) or into the barn. Given spring weather, they were often wrapped in cellophane or tinfoil. One reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time was that eggs were forbidden during the fast of Lent. The first edible Easter Eggs were made in Germany during the early 19th century and were made of pastry and sugar, now they are primarily chocolate in all sizes!

The media often uses the Easter Bunny in various Easter advertisements and films, such as Hop, or Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter) will forever remain the naughty rabbit that barely escapes Macgregor’s garden!