I majored in history at Earlham College, an institution that had a long-standing tradition of celebrating May Day. “Big” May Day, held every four years, was my senior year, and I was deeply involved in sewing the morris men’s tunics (white unicorns on a black background on the front; black and white checkerboard on the back), teaching the maypole dance to a number of helpers and then leading it (six simultaneous maypoles, I recall), and tootling away on the recorders. The whole faculty and most of the students (except those rebels who were celebrating “Prune Day” with a duly-elected Prune Queen) were involved. It was great fun! Thinking about it some years later, I wondered if other colleges celebrated May Day—and what had promised to be a short chapter in a book on calendar customs turned into May Day Festivals in America: 1830 to the Present. Check it out! (I mean, actually, buy it!) If you attended an historically women’s college, the odds are very high that your predecessors rose at dawn and danced around with garlands while wearing Grecian tunics.
The image on the cover is from a celebration in Mendon, Utah, which featured five maypoles (one for each high school grade and one for the returning May Queens).