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Q: A friend of mine recently told me that on May 1, I should be sure to dance around the Maypole. What’s up with that?

A: Dancing around the Maypole was one way to celebrate the first day of May, known as May Day. The tradition has ancient roots. It probably originated in the spring fertility festivals of India and Egypt, according to the Columbia Encyclopedia's Sixth Edition. The festival of the Roman goddess of spring, Flora, was celebrated from April 28 to May 3.

As time went on the celebration evolved, and in medieval England, a key part of the celebration was the Maypole, which was decorated with flowers and streamers. Dancers held the loose ends of these festoons as they sashayed around the pole, weaving intricate patterns as they passed each other in the dance.

Such dances can still be seen during May Day exhibitions in England and the United States.

May Day also has another meaning for many people in the world. In 1889, the Second Socialist International designated May Day as the holiday for labor. Since then, communists and socialists have celebrated May Day with demonstrations, parades and speeches.

Got a question about goings-on Europe? E-mail Stripes at: news@estripes.osd.mil

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