May Day Eve

May Day Eve (Czech Republic)

April 30
According to an old Czech superstition, witches try to enter people's homes on the eve of May Day and do them harm. At one time it was customary to sprinkle sand or grass on the doorstep, in the belief that the witches had to count the grains or blades before entering the house. Now the "Burning of the Witches" ceremony is observed in some parts of the country by building bonfires on the mountain tops. Brooms that have been dipped in pitch are plunged into the fire and then held aloft like torches.
In Postupice, a town in the Bohemian region, a Maypole and Burning of the Witches Festival is held April 30-May 1 every year. The young men put up a maypole, decorated with ribbons and colored wreaths, in the village square on the afternoon of April 30. The next day, both men and women dress up in peasant costumes, weaving the ribbons in and out as they dance around the maypole and celebrate the coming of spring. The burning of the witches takes place afterward, when the villagers throw their broomsticks into the bonfire and burn the witches in effigy. People gather around the bonfire to drink brandy or beer and roast sausages as they watch the witches burn.
BkFest-1937, p. 88
GdWrldFest-1985, p. 68

Celebrated in: Czech Republic

May Day Eve (Ireland)
April 30
According to Irish legend, the fairy people fight among themselves on the eve of May Day. Every seven years, the combat is especially intense, for they compete with one another for the crops, taking the best ears of wheat, barley, and oats as their prize. By mixing the barley with dew gathered from a mountain top at midnight, they make a strong liquor. One drink is believed to set them dancing for 24 hours without pausing to rest.
The custom of celebrating May Day Eve with bonfires or with a May bush decorated with candles can be traced back to the pagan feast of Beltane, which marked the summer's beginning. In Ireland, a horse's skull was often burned in the bonfire. On November Eve (October 31) in County Cork, a procession led by a man called "The White Mare," who was dressed in a white robe and carried a symbolic horse's head, went from house to house soliciting contributions of money and food. Because fairies and the spirits of the dead were believed to roam around on this night, food was left out to ward off their mischief.
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 335
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 202
EncyEaster-2002, p. 403
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 303
OxYear-1999, p. 179

Celebrated in: Ireland

May Day Eve (Italy)
April 30
In Modena, Italy, if tradition is followed, the boys of the town sing May songs under the village windows on the eve of May Day. A talented musician is often asked to sing to the sweethearts of the others, and the boys compete with one another to see who can compose the most persuasive lyrics. On the Sunday following, it is customary for the boys to appear with empty baskets at the houses they have serenaded. The families fill the baskets with things to eat.
May Day itself, or Calendimaggio, bears little resemblance to the original pagan spring festival once celebrated in ancient Rome. Modern-day Italians attend horse races, fireworks exhibitions, and various types of competitions and lotteries which are held throughout the country on May 1.
BkFest-1937, p. 186

Celebrated in: Italy

May Day Eve (Switzerland) (MaitagVorabend)
April 30
Certain villages in the Seeland and Burgdorf regions of the canton of Bern in Switzerland still observe the ancient custom of planting the Maitannli, or May pine tree. Boys from the village steal into the forest after dark on May Day Eve, April 30, and cut down small pine trees, which they deck with flowers and ribbons and plant under their sweethearts' bedroom windows, at the front gate, or occasionally on the roof. The young man who plants the symbolic tree is usually welcomed and entertained by the girl and her family. Girls who have a reputation for being arrogant or unpopular sometimes find a grotesque straw puppet in place of the traditional Maitannli.
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 335
BkFest-1937, p. 318

Celebrated in: Switzerland

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Almost half a century later, Robina reels off writings Forny opened her eyes to long ago: Manuel Arguilla's 'How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife,' Nick Joaquin's 'May Day Eve' and Alberto Florentino's 'The World is an Apple.'
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Youths and maidens went 'a-maying' on May Day Eve into the woods and did not return until dawn on May Day carrying garlands of flowers, branches of hawthorn or blackthorn and usually a birch or pine trunk stripped of its branches -- which was to become the village maypole.
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Ancient customs in the Scottish Lowlands and in England prompted the young men and women of rural villages to spend most of May Day Eve "bringing in the May," that is, gathering blooming branches from the forest.
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