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May Day Traditions

Tomorrow is May Day and is a great time to experience some Quintessentially British Entertainment. This is perfect for a variety of parties and events including weddings and corporate family days, and is entertainment that Viva Live Music arranges.

Folk dancing

On the first of May – also called May Day, celebrations were held to mark the arrival of Spring; a time for love and joy and the prospect of the Summer. A Maypole, usually decorated with garlands of flowers, would be danced around by dancers, accompanied by musicians. A young girl from each village or small town would be chosen as the ‘May Queen’ and she would preside over the dancers. As a young girl, I, like many teenaged girls got up early on May Day, to wash my face in the morning dew. Apparently this would make you more beautiful.

Maypole dancing

Maypole dancing is a great activity for weddings, team building, family days and parties and we are always delighted to arrange this for clients. The maypole can be moved inside, as it was for this event, since the weather was so awful, and our wonderful accordion player taught and accompanied the dancers.

morris dancers

Morris dancers are also a feature of May Day. Much derided by many people that just don’t understand (after all, these are fully grown men waving handkerchiefs and wearing bells on their ankles), in fact this is a fascinating tradition. In the true folk tradition, this is based on story telling and there are variations throughout the country. At the event above, the dancers demonstrated and explained a number of dances and then taught guests some key moves.

magdalen great tower

In Oxford, May Day revellers are treated to the choir from Magdalen College singing madrigals at 6am from the Great Tower. One of the favourite madrigals is ‘Now is the Month of Maying’ with its naughty double-ententre lyrics. Listen to a version here – just recorded a cappella by myself.

As well as Maypole Dancing there is other folk dancing. In Northern England, Scotland we call a folk dance, with caller teaching you the dance steps a “Ceilidh” although in Southern England “Barn Dance” is still used to describe this. It is great fun and is an excellent icebreaker for guests of all ages. We have arranged ceilidhs for weddings, parties and even corporate events. The event below was for International Students.


 Barn Dance 2

Whatever you decide to do for May Day – or even the May Bank Holiday, I hope you have the chance to experience some traditional celebrations.

If you would like to discuss including any traditional Folk dancing or music into your event, Contact us or call +44 (0)800 0938 464

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