happy may day!

Photo from St. Peter’s May Day celebration early 1970s.

When I was a little girl I went to St.Peter’s School at 4th and Pine in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia.  We celebrated May Day as a school.

May Day was something all of the kids looked forward to.  Somewhere I have photos my mother took, but the first photo you see in this post and the last were given to me a few years ago by my childhood and adult friend Anthony. What you see in the photo was some of the dancing we did along with the dancing around the Maypole which weaved beautiful and bright ribbons into a lovely pattern as we went round and round.

May Day was such fun! There was the dancing around the Maypole and the other dancing which included dancing over clay pipes – a very Celtic/Gaelic dance.  

I was never coordinated enough to do any of the fancy or specialized dancing but I loved the magic of the Maypole and all of May Day.  In my minds eye I still have a little flickers of memory of these May Day events. I swear today I can hear echoes of the music and clapping!  I remember as a little girl it was the one time I wanted to have the right dress for May Day celebrations. 

Two photos are from when I went to St. Peter’s but the  other photos are old photos I have found on the Internet so people can see what the celebrations were like.

Caroline Seamans, the Headmistress of St. Peter’s when I was a girl instilled some wonderful traditions. It was a great place to be a child.  It wasn’t perfect, and like any school had issues, but was a pretty cool place.

May Day is known also as International Workers Day and today the news in our area is showing demonstrations of public school teachers in front of City Hall in Philadelphia. But that’s not the history of May Day I remember as a child.

May Day is a traditional spring holiday in many cultures, to this very day. Early May Day celebrations started with ancient Romans who celebrated the Festival of the Roman Goddess of flowers, Flora. Ancient Romans held on April 27. Germanic countires celebrated Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries and in the British Ilses was the Pagan holoday of Beltane, held around on April 30.

As time marched forward, all of these celebrations got folded into May Day celebrations. These May Day celebrations which have had increasingly waning popularity which I find so truly sad given the innocence and beauty wnd fun of May Day used to mean these May dances and Maypole.

There was also once upon a time a lovely tradition of May baskets – little baskets of spring flowers and treats left anonymously with a glad heart for neighbors. England and Ireland still maintains a lot of the May Day traditions from what my research has indicated, and there they crown May Queens as well. In Finland they keep the tradition of Vappu, their May Day street festival and carnivals.

May Day was lovely as a child. We felt so grown up and special dancing around the Maypoles. I am so glad I have those memories.

Here is a link to a video of a celebration in a village in Cornwall – CLICK HERE. And Bryn Mawr College has a big May Day celebration as part of it’s traditions – CLICK HERE. At Bryn Mawr College they also have Morris Men who dance.

Anyway, happy May Day and rabbit rabbit.

Maypole St. Peter’s School Philadelphia – early 1970s

positive influences

lizzieHow to begin this post? Well it is kind of personal and introspective.

It begins many moons ago when I was in 5th grade.

Yes, 5th grade.

I had this young teacher who was British and not so long out of  school.  Her name then was Mrs. Gibson and I thought she was amazing.  She introduced me to all sorts of things I have carried forward in my life, and encouraged my love of books and reading.  That of course still exists today and my favorite books have traveled with me my whole life.

It was Mrs. Gibson and my mother who introduced me to an author whose books I still re-read today: Elizabeth Goudge.  Mrs. Gibson read us Green Dolphin Street, which at the time was probably a little old for us, but it is also a favorite book/author of my mother’s so I think I have re-read this book easily a dozen times over the course of my life.

Mrs. Gibson was my teacher at St. Peter’s School at 4th and Pine Streets in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia where my family lived when I was a young girl.  I wrote about St. Peter’s Church on this blog a year or so ago when they needed to do repairs. St. Peter’s was an amazing little grade school which still exists today. I had many positive experiences at that school and to this day still have friends from those years.

5th grade

We eventually left Society Hill for the Main Line and Mrs. Gibson left the US and returned to the UK  and became among other things a several times over published author and poet and continued to teach.

Lizzie (as I now call her) and I reconnected many, many years ago and stayed in touch via letter, e-mail, and Facebook. Now some might think it odd that I keep in touch with some of my teachers from grade school and high school, but truthfully I had some amazing teachers in my life and I just always liked them as people too.

Lizzie now Lizzie Ballagher and I sat down today for the first time in literally decades as she was in the US for a visit to friends and family.    And it was a very special moment for me as  she had not seen me in person (nor I her) since I was 11 years old.  We had just stayed in touch throughout the years. I think we both got a little teary when we saw each other at first this morning.

We had a good gab and walked around downtown Wayne which was out middle ground of distance.  I never knew until today that she was terrified when she first started to teach us – she was so young, we were so young.

They say life is about circles, and today I experienced that yet again.  It proves to me the importance of formative years and good friendships.  Some people shed a lot of people throughout their lives, I keep people. Yes, all the way back to grade school.

It is because of having known people like Lizzie that I am often so hyper critical of schools and school districts, as well as somewhat merciless in my commentary on teachers and coaches who cross unspeakable lines with students. I was truly blessed to have so many positive influences and it is such a cool experience to be able to visit with someone who watched you grow and whom you also watched grow. Of course the great irony here is when you are making these amazing connections when you are younger you take it for granted.

It is an amazing experience to carry forward positive influences like awesome teachers in your life, and I can’t help but wonder in today’s world how many kids are still able to do that?   Do we still life in a world that allows these connections?