May Day is May 1st and what better way to mark the date than making your own maypole?
Traditionally marking the beginning of summer, May Day likely originates from ancient agricultural rituals, and was celebrated by the Romans, Greeks and Celts. In the UK, May Day celebrations traditionally include gathering wildflowers, making garlands, dancing around the maypole, and crowning a May king and queen. May Day festivities have been celebrated in the UK for over 2000 years.
A maypole is a wooden pole decorated with flowers and coloured ribbons. The tradition may have evolved from Germanic tree-worshipping rituals praying for bountiful harvests. Children dance around the maypole, each holding a ribbon, and weaving in and out they plait the rainbow ribbons around the pole.
How To Make A Traditional Maypole For The Garden
If you want to make a real maypole you can bring out every year for a garden celebration, this is for you. Anyone attempting this wins a gold medal for effort.
What you will need:
- 3-5m pole (wooden pole, strong plastic pipe, anything sturdy) at least 44mm diameter
- Paint (optional)
- Coloured ribbons (one for each dancer in the family) multiples of 4 work best 4,8,12 etc.
- Flowers to decorate the crown (real or artificial)
- Leaves to decorate
- Staple gun
- 3-inch double-sided screw
- Drawing pins
- Two wooden discs that fit the pole snugly.
- Wooden finial (decorative ornament on top of the pole). You could use a doorknob or similar!
- Somewhere to hold the pole - a hole in the ground that you can firmly pack dirt around / a ground spike like those used to hold washing lines /garden parasol base (anything that fits the pole snugly as it shouldn't wobble at all)
How to do it:
- Paint your pole and finial.
- Drill a hole a little smaller than the diameter of the screw in the centre of each of the discs, and in one end of the pole.
- Unroll your ribbons and fold them all in half. Cut a triangular notch in the centre of each fold to create a small diamond-shaped hole.
- Take a wooden disc and divide into quarters with two of the ribbons. Make sure the diamond-shaped hole in each ribbon is centred over the drilled hole in the disc. Next place one or two more ribbons in each quarter. Secure each ribbon in place with drawing pins. Staple ribbons in place around the edges of the disc and at the centre.
- Insert the screw into the top of the pole. Fit the wooden disc over the screw with the ribbons facing upwards. Place the other disc on top, and then the finial. Twist the finial until it is tightly in place and the discs below are fixed tight.
- Decorate the crown of your maypole with flowers and leaves.
- Fit a ground spike firmly into the ground. Tighten the spike around the pole until it stands completely stationary.
Indoor Maypole Ideas
There are many ways to create your own version of a maypole indoors.
- One way is to get a pole or sturdy tube, for example, the inner tube of a roll of wrapping paper, or a long stick of wood and simply staple ribbons in place around the top. Someone then stands in the middle of the room holding the pole up, and the dancers dance around them. This could lead to the person getting mummified in satin ribbons.
- Staple ribbons around the top of a pole or tube, or gouge out holes and tie the ribbons through the holes. Plant the pole or tube in a plant pot and pack soil tightly around it. Dance around the plant pot maypole.
- Make a ribboned mobile and hang somewhere with space enough for dancers to move around it. Make the mobile with an embroidery hoop. Tie ribbons with a hitch knot to the hoop in multiples of four. Decorate with real or fake flowers, leaves, butterflies...Screw into the ceiling or hang somewhere in the centre of the room.
Dancing And Music Ideas
Braid hair with ribbons
Music And Dancing
You can simply type 'maypole dancing' into Spotify or Youtube and come up with hundreds of appropriate songs for your dancing.
Dancers form a circle around the maypole and to the rhythm of the music take four-step towards the pole, four steps back and then circle the pole for the count of eight. Approaching the pole they raise their arms and moving away they lower them.
First Plaiting Dance And Grand Chain
- Now the dancers create a closed plait around the maypole. All dancers hold their ribbons in their right hand, and use the left hand to hold their excess ribbon. All dance around the pole in the same direction with no overtaking. Dancers will eventually run out of ribbon, at which point they reverse their steps and unwind the ribbon from the maypole.
- For the next dance, the dancers form two groups of equal numbers. Dancers from group A partner dancers from group B. Alternate As and Bs around the maypole, with each A dancer facing a B dancer. Start the music. Group A dancers pass right shoulder with their group B dancer and then pass left shoulder with the next B dancer, round and round until all the ribbon is used up. As dancers pass each other they raise and lower their ribbon over the other dancers' heads. You should now have a beautiful plait. Unwinding, reverse steps accurately or the ribbons will get knotted!
Eleanor lives in Brighton with her three year old daughter. They are always on the lookout for new experiences and environments to explore and exciting new activities to do together. One of their favourite ways to spend an afternoon is the cinema, you will always find them queueing for popcorn the minute a new kids’ film is released! They love getting the train to London in search of new activities and great places to eat. Eleanor is also training as a complementary therapist in her (limited!) spare time and is very interested in the practice of mindfulness.