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It's May, and Life's a Holiday

Tulips in Bloom
Tulips in Bloom
Catherine Al-Meten

Anyone who has seen the film, Camelot probably remembers the Lerner and Lowe tune that Vanessa Redgrave sings,

“It’s May! It's May!
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when ev'ryone goes
Blissfully astray.”

Named for the Greek goddess Maia, the Roman fertility goddess, Bona Dea, May is a month when everything in life seems to change. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is spring and in the Southern, it’s Autumn. It’s nearly the end of the school, year so May is often a time when students and teachers alike look longingly towards the upcoming vacations. Whether it’s called Spring Fever or May Sickness (as it is in Japan), the changing weather and increased hours of sunlight in the North create an atmosphere for celebration. May is also a month of celebrations.

In Japan there is actually a 10-day break between the end of April until May 5. This period is called the Golden Week, and is a time when four different holidays are celebrated during this period and workers take time off work to travel and take some time off. Major factories, including automakers and electronic firms decided to close their factories for the entire 10 days this year. According to JTB, Japan’s largest travel agency, it is expected that over 22.4 million people will go away for at least one night during this time.

This upcoming weekend, the first weekend in May, is a time that ushers in many celebrations. Among Catholics worldwide, May is the month dedicated to honoring the Queen of May, the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to the Marian traditions, probably first observed around Genoa, Italy, in the late 1700s. A devotion of prayers for the home and family marked this tradition. One feature of this celebration and devotion is a family home altar. The home or May altar is usually set up on a table decorated with May flowers, a picture of the Blessed Mother, and whatever else the family made or shared to mark this celebration (sacred books, poems written by the family, May baskets to give to neighbors and friends). The altar symbolizes the family’s intention to devote some time in prayer together during the month, and through that prayer and devotion to unite the family “more piously with those absent and those dead. It links all more tightly in a sweet bond of love, with the most Holy Virgin, who, like a loving mother, in the circle of her children, will be there bestowing upon them an abundance of the gifts of concord and family peace” (Pope Pius XII, Ingruentium Malorum-one of the Church’s encylicals/letters to the people).

In family, villages, cities, schools and churches throughout the world, the Month of Mary is a time when the Queen of Heaven is crowned in a May festival. A practice that dates back to the Council of Trent. Contrary to some thinking, Catholics do not worship Mary; they venerate and honor her as a model of courage and strength “Images are venerated ‘not because of a belief that these images themselves possess anything of divinity or power, but because the honor shown them is directed to the prototypes they represent’ (Council of Trent, session 25)”

In The Phllipines, the Flores des Mayo (Flowers of May) is celebrated in all the parishes and schools. Similar celebrations happen throughout the month of May in homes, churches, and towns in cultures throughout the world.

In New Zealand, May is Music Month. May 1 is International Labor Day, observed by many countries. The 4th of May is the Kentucky Derby in Churchill Downs, Kentucky. Perhaps the most famous horse race, the “Run for the Roses” is the race that culminates two weeks of pre-race celebration each year. May 1 is Beltaine and May Day. In Mexico, Battala de Puebla commemorates the defeat of the French occupying forces by the Mexican Army on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico, and also widely and often wildly, celebrated in the U.S.. May 5 is also Children’s Day in Japan and Korea, and Liberation Day in the Netherlands.

Mother’s Day is celebrated by many countries, including the U.S., in May (May 12-Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador). In the U.S., Mother’s Day is observed on the second Sunday of May each year.

On the Full Moon of May, Buddhists celebrate their most holy holiday, Vesak, the day the Buddha, Gautama Buddha, was born, attained Enlighenment, and died.

May is also Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander friends, family, neighbors, and fellow citizens. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, National Moving Month, Older Americans Month,
and National Bike Month, National Drinking Water Month, and National Smile Month.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, May is the month for celebrating.

The Movable Feasts that are happening this May include Eastern Orthodox Christianity’s Easter celebration that continues until Thursday, May 8.

The official flower for May is Lily of the Valley, however, flowers are coming up everywhere this Spring. For some of my East Coast friends, the first daffodils are just blooming while here in the West, we are in mid-Spring bloom. May is the time the Sun transits the constellations Taurus, the Bull (until May 20) and then Gemini, the Twins.

May is the Month of Photography and today, May 2 is International Tuba Day, International Baby Day and International Brother and Sister Day.

It seems there isn’t much we don’t find to celebrate, so my suggestion to you is to find something to celebrate each day of May, and perhaps it will be come a habit you can carry on. Happy May, and enjoy the beauty in and all around you. Commemorate the important events that have significance in your life, honor those who have passed and who are in your life now, and celebrate that we live in a world where people know how to appreciate life. Play your tuba, call your sister or brother, and celebrate May. "It's here, it's here, that shocking time of year, when everyone does a frivolous thing or two."

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