Another example of a Renaissance festival emphasizing the theme of renewal was May Day. This was a celebration held to insure the success of the crops. The maypole, a symbolic object associated with this festival, was usually a tree cut down in a ceremony which took place in the nearby woods. In the village, lively and elaborate games such as skittles (lawn bowls) were played. In some areas, plays and music were performed as a group of villagers brought the flowerdecked pole in a procession into the village green. Usually, a man dressed in green, representing Robin Hood, symbolized the outlaw friend of the poor.
Many rituals and ceremonies welcomed the arrival of spring. A Queen of the May was chosen; an archery contest held; plays were performed; dancers, jugglers, hobbyhorses rocked and jesters performed. Some students may be familiar with this seasonal festival as some area elementary schools still celebrate May Day, even with a maypole and May Dance. Gertrude Hartman, in
Medieval Days and Ways
, describes the May Day activities for students (pp. 102106). In the reading, students will find many examples of rituals which symbolize an important cultural idea. Ask them to identify the elements, the themes, and functions of these symbolic activities.