Eric Douglas: May Day -- there's a lot going on!

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I can’t think of a month of May that held more promise than the one that will be here in a couple days. Everyone is pinning their hopes on this May being a time for hope, joy and rebirth.

April in West Virginia is a traditionally fickle month. We see days in the 80s with sunshine and then we see days when the temperature never makes it out of the 40s and the sun never shows. Often those days are back to back, making the latter that much worse.

This April has been even more troubling than others for reasons I don’t think I need to touch on.

But May holds promise and excitement. We may be able to get out and about some although the return to “normal” activities is still a-ways off.

May has been a month of promise for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Romans celebrated the festival of “Floralia” to honor Flora, the goddess of flowers and fertility. There were also celebrations to the earth goddess Maia -- hence the name of the month.

You may’ve heard of the Beltane celebration of the Celtic druids. It was also a May Day holiday meant to encourage fertility for people and livestock, as well as ward off evil magic. They lit bonfires in the hills to honor the sun.

The May tradition I’ve never understood is the May Pole. That’s likely because I never participated in one. It seems fun for the kids, but, of course, since it is May, it has a fertility connection. And that connection made it a target of the Puritans. (I wonder if they ever had any fun.)

Of course, in the modern era, May Day is also known as International Workers Day. That holiday was created by socialists and labor organizers after the Haymarket Riot on May 4t 1886. (Now, we refer to May 4, half-jokingly, as Star Wars Day. “May the 4th be with you.”)

International Workers Day spawned the creation of Loyalty Day on May 1 by those hip-deep into the Red Scare of the 1950s. It doesn’t seem to have lasted long.

Unrelated to all of that, in case you are wondering as you get your boat ready for the summer, MayDay as a distress call is a mispronunciation of the French phrase “venez m'aider.” It means “come help me.”

Today, say "MayDay" three times on the distress channel on your radio if you have a life-threatening emergency.

Considering what we’re going through as April ends and May ramps up, let’s pray for no new fresh MayDay calls for a while.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com

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