Every year, the Waldorf School of Bend welcomes the apex of Spring with a traditional May Faire. This lovely festival usually features beautiful wreaths bedecked with fresh flowers, cheerful music and dancing around a maypole with brightly colored ribbons, and the sharing of food and friendship during a school-wide community picnic.
Due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to keep our community members safe, this year’s event will be closed to parents, grandparents, and siblings, with attendance limited to students, staff, and teachers. However, we definitely plan to take lots of photos of the children enjoying this special day to share with our families!
The history of celebrating May Faire dates back to ancient times and spans a variety of different cultures, who share similar themes of fertility and fecundity. Originally known as Beltaine in Celctic and Gaelic lands after the sun god, Belenus, this seasonal festival took place about halfway between the spring equinox, Ostara (modern-day Easter), and the coming summer solstice, Litha (Midsummer).
The cross-quarter holiday celebrated spring at its peak, and the coming arrival of summer, with the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, the crowning of a May king and queen, and the setting up of a decorated May tree, or maypole, around which people danced.
Variations of this agricultural festival were also celebrated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans in honor of deities such as Artemis, Hera, Pan, Bacchus, and Flora, as well as by the Aztecs in honor of their fertility goddess Xochiquetzal, and the Ancient Norse peoples who believed this is when their god Odin hung from an Ash tree for nine days.
Many traditions throughout the world evolved in connection with this holiday, such as singing to the sown fields starting to sprout, lighting special bonfires, decorating doorways with yellow flowers, washing one’s face with dew on the morning of May 1 to beautify the skin, and delivering baskets and bundles of flowers to one’s friends and neighbors.
The popularity of this festival waned somewhat in the United States of America, likely due to the influence of the New England Puritans, who forade its observance. However, over the years, many modern Americans have rediscovered the joys and pleasures of what is now popularly termed May Day in common parlance.
Waldorf Schools in particular have carried on many of the original Spring-related traditions associated with this festival, particularly decorating flower crowns and dancing around the maypole! Usually, each class takes their turn to dance for the benefit of the community, accompanied by the sweet dulcet sounds of a recorder, flute, violin, harp, or other gentle musical instrument.
Typically, maypole dances begin with the youngest class, who often simply walk serenely around the maypole in a circle while holding brightly colored ribbons. Next, older students demonstrate more elaborate weaving forms, circling around one another in intricate patterns that form a beautiful twisting of the ribbons. Everyone dresses in all in white, or in pastel colors or other Spring-like clothes, and at the end of the dancing there is often food and feasting!
At the Waldorf School of Bend, students also perform a traditional skit in which King Winter is defeated by the Queen of Spring, bringing new growth to the land for one more year ahead.
This year’s May Faire at WSB will take place on Friday, May 7. While we wish all members of our community could join us in person for this most joyous of celebrations, we do promise to share videos and photos of the day’s festivities in the weeks after.
In the meantime, families can help prepare their children for this event by selecting a special outfit to wear, donating fresh flowers and raffia to make crowns, and bringing the Spirit of Spring into their homes!