May Day is a traditional spring festival in many cultures. Although summer does not officially begin until June, May Day really marks its beginning. May Day celebrations have their origins in the Roman Festival of Flora, celebrated with dancing, singing and colourful decorations.
A traditional May Day dance is known as the Maypole dancing. On May Day people used to cut down young trees and stick them in the ground in the village to mark the arrival of summer. The poles were then decorated with flowers and coloured ribbons. We attached our ribbons to a rope around a pine tree instead of cutting one down.
We started by gathering wood for the fire. The children eagerly helped and they also wanted to take turns in cutting the larger branches with a saw.
Then each of us, adults and children, formed a circle around the tree, took ribbons in our hands and danced and sang around it. We made a fabulous tangle of colours! The children had so much fun with the paper ribbons they kept playing with them after the dance, attaching them to sticks and running around.
In the end we gathered around the fire and enjoyed a picnic under the trees.
In some traditions Candlemas celebrates the beginning of the lengthening of days and also the beginning of spring. We certainly have not had a winter this year as temperature kept fairly warm through January and the lack of rainfall has been on everyone’s mind, especially the local farmers. In Maltese tradition, February 2nd is called il-Gandlora. Farmers predict whether we would have more rain or not. If it does not rain on this day, warm weather is to be expected from now on.
Candles are usually prepared around this time to last through the whole year. We got ourselves busy looking for good quality beeswax and made a thorough search on candle making.
For the celebration we met in the woods. The kids helped to gather the wood for the fire. There was a serene atmosphere as soon as everyone arrived and children played in such free spirit.
When all was set, we melted some beeswax to make candles in the earth. Much care was taken for the children’s safety. Some were intrigued to watch what we adults were doing while the others managed to find some wild asparagus thorns and burn them in the fire to make firework sounds. Pine cones and herbs were thrown in the fire and Santo Palo wood was burned by each family to create a nice scent in the air. While the candles were cooling off in the soil we gathered round the fire and prayed for the year ahead, for new beginnings and opportunities and for that much needed rain.
WINTER SOLSTICE / ADVENT SPIRAL
The winter spiral or advent spiral as it is sometimes called, is a celebration of quiet confidence, of carrying light in darkness and of sharing that light with others. Evergreen boughs are laid on the floor or ground to create a spiral. In the centre of the spiral is a lit candle and each child takes their turn to walk the spiral holding an unlit candle. As they reach the centre, they light the candle from the centre candle and then walks back out of the spiral. The child brings forth the Light as he/she walks outward and chooses a place along the spiral to set the lit candle.
San Martin chapel was chosen for this event and it took place at the opening of the cave, behind the chapel. We played some music to add to the reverent atmosphere and the children helped in gathering the evergreen boughs and placing them on the ground.
Martinmas is well known as San Martin and is well remembered for the bags full of fruit and nuts we used to receive. Martinmas however is more about compassion and generosity, reflected in the story of St Martin, who shared his cloak with a beggar. The light of Martinmas, represented by a candle in a lantern, strengthens our spirit for the dark winter.
We decided to do a lantern walk in Buskett valley. Each family made lanterns of their own with glass jars, paper mache and some decorations, and prepared a few short verses to sing along the way.
During this month, the each family gave donations to different orphanages to enhance the spirit of generosity.