Bringing in the May, the custom of gathering greenery and flowers, and the maypole are English traditions. The maypole, the focal point of the celebration, was brightly painted and decorated with greens.
Later, people began to braid it with ribbons by weaving in and out in the course of a dance around the maypole.
Other traditions include making garlands for children and the crowning of the May Queen.
Friendship Elementary School held a May Fair on the school grounds near Glen Rock for many years.
The Parent-Teacher Organization sponsored the event to raise money for the school, and there were games, contests and food; a parade with marching groups and floats, led by the elementary band; and, of course, the maypole dance.
"I miss those days. The May Fair was always a great day, and I have lots of fond memories from the many years of attending as a student and as a teacher," said Sue Barnhart. "I remember how the parade used to march up (Route) 216 in front of Friendship. The maypole was a highlight of the day as a boy and girl from each grade level participated in the wrapping of the ribbons around the pole."
As the school district grew, the May Fair was moved to larger schools to provide more space and include more children.
"As a teacher, I remember marching with my class at Shrewsbury Elementary and it was a Hawaiian theme," Barnhart said. "Some of the parents helped to make a volcano and we pulled it along in the parade."
Later, Barnhart took her own children to the May Fair.
The May Fair is now history, but there are others who remember it.
Jay Good of Shrewsbury Township said when he attended Friendship Elementary, the May Fair was a highlight and signaled the end of the school year. It was free for students and families, a day of fun for everyone, and opened with a maypole dance.
His wife, Sue Good, remembers taking their children Megan and Andy to the May Fair.
"The May Fair committee was made up mostly of parents and some teachers who would coordinate and operate the stands. It was the highlight of spring for them at school," she said. "There were snowballs, a petting zoo, penny candy, all those good things of youth. We had a blast helping as well as attending. Then Friendship was much smaller and it was a very nice way to meet other parents that lived further from Glen Rock, since Friendship services our district to Jefferson."
For Jim Hoffman, participating in the May Fair parade was his "debut" as a member of the Friendship Elementary School Band.
In more recent times, Hoffman participates in another May holiday, playing Taps at Memorial Day services.
Hoffman's wife, Kay Stermer Hoffman, said her mother, Ruth Stermer, taught at Friendship during the time of the May Fair.
"When my mom taught at Friendship Elementary, she had her class make a quilt of the states, and then it was auctioned off at May Day. I believe she had each student make a square or two of the quilt, then she sewed it together," Kay Hoffman said.
She thinks the students might have cross-stitched the outline of the states and that her mother may have done this for several years, probably in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Hoffman followed in her mother's footsteps and became an elementary school teacher, a career that included May Day celebrations.
"May Day, my first year of teaching at York Township Elementary, the teachers participated in relay races. I have a picture of myself pushing a colleague while he rode a tricycle on an obstacle course," Kay Hoffman said.
The teachers baked and donated cakes that were auctioned to the highest bidder as part of the May Day celebration. That was in the late 1990s, she said.
Fellow teacher Ann Cleaver often coordinated and taught the maypole dance to the students, she said.
The Hoffmanns' daughter Kara Koller attended May Day events with her mother.
"I spent many younger years with my mom's colleague's daughter Mandi, hanging out at May Day and watching all the older kids enjoy the festivities," Koller said. "We participated in a bean-bag toss, picking a fish from a pool of water to win a prize, dime toss to win the best kitchen glassware our mothers could want, buying flowers for Mother's Day, and getting our faces painted. Mandi Klingler and I grew to be very good friends through the relationship of our mothers teaching together."
As a student at Leader Heights Elementary, Koller was finally old enough to participate in her own May Day, and one year students were allowed to make their own button to wear to the festivities.
"Pin-on buttons were very popular back in the day. Mine had a duck and my name on it. I still have it," she said.
The dunk tank was always very popular, but Koller's favorite was the dime toss.
"I remember yearning to participate in the Maypole dance and I did participate one year. I remember wearing yellow and having my hair braided. I guess I may have held the yellow ribbon. I don't remember too much about my feelings for the maypole dance, but as with anything like that I suppose I felt honored to be part of it," Koller said.
Beth Koontz, now the principal at Friendship Elementary, remembers May Day when she was a child.
"As a fourth-grader and then again as a senior, I actually danced the Maypole dance for New Oxford's May Day. I was even the leader, calling out the counts for everyone to hear," she said.
She said the food was great, too, and years later memories of the peppermint lemons can still make her mouth water.
Olive Padden of York Township shared a different and very nice May Day memory from her childhood.
"I never had a maypole event," she said. "My childhood was spent in Wisconsin and Illinois, and on May Day you tried to hang a small basket of flowers on the door of someone who was special to you as a surprise."
OTHER MAY HOLIDAYS
CINCO DE MAYO is celebrated in parts of Mexico and by people with a Mexican background who live in the United States. It is a day to celebrate the culture, achievements and experiences of Mexico.
The celebration involves decorations with banners, balloons, streamers and flowers in red, white and green, the colors of the Mexican flag. Mexican folk music or Mariachi bands accompany traditional Mexican dancing and traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas, tortilla chips, tacos and salsa.
A NUMBER OF ANCIENT CULTURES celebrated holidays honoring motherhood, but it was a woman upset by the death and carnage of war who first suggested a Mother's Day celebrating peace and motherhood.
Julia Ward Howe, who wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," called for mothers to come together to protest the futility of men killing one another in the country's Civil War.
Some time later, Anna Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia suggested a Mother's Friendship Day as a way of reuniting those who had been divided by that same war.
Her daughter took up the cause, and eventually Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognizing Mother's Day as a national holiday.
ARMED FORCES DAY was created in 1949 after the armed forces were unified under the Department of Defense.
The following year, President Harry Truman issued a proclamation asking all branches of the military to replace their separate celebrations with a unified celebration that is held on the third Saturday in May.
MEMORIAL DAY, celebrated on the last Monday of May, is celebrated with parades and services remembering our fallen military veterans.
It's the first warm-weather holiday for family cookouts and backyard get-togethers. It's also opening day for many public swimming pools, and the school year is drawing to a close, which might explain why many people think of it as the start of the summer season, even though summer doesn't officially start until June 20.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.
On May 5, 1868, Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed Memorial Day as a time to honor those killed in battle. A few weeks later, on May 30, flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I, when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May, as set forth in the National Holiday Act passed by Congress in 1971 to ensure a three-day weekend for Federal holidays.
MEMORIAL DAY EVENTS
Memorial Day services around the county involve local bands and veterans' organizations, Scout troops, schools and churches.
· The Red Lion-Felton Band plays at a service held in East Prospect on the day before Memorial Day, director William Ritz said.
"My father was in the military during the Korean War," he said.
· St. Jacob's Stone Church in Codorus Township began holding services on the Sunday before Memorial Day in 1892.
· Robert Nicklow II has been placing flags on veterans' graves for more than 50 years. He and his team of more than 20 volunteers will place more than 1,000 flags in 25 cemeteries around the county.
"My dad instilled in me to honor the veterans who have passed," Nicklow said.
· The memorial team from Richard J. Gross VFW Post 8896 of East Berlin will uphold its annual tradition of participating in parades and graveside services beginning that Friday and continuing through Memorial Day.
"Memorial Day, to me, is a time to honor and remember the people who served," said Knude Hermansen, as U.S. Army veteran who served in Germany in 1944-45.
· At Arlington National Cemetery, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry, The Old Guard, will place flags at the more than 260,000 gravestones of service members buried there.