May Day is not an overly prominent holiday in America. Yet it does have a long and notable history as one of the world's principal festivals. The origin of May Day as a day for celebration dates back to the days before the birth of Christ. And like many ancient festivals it too has a Pagan connection.
For the Druids of the British Isles, May 1 was the second most important holiday of the year because it was when the festival of Beltane was held. It was thought that the day divides the year into half. The other half was to be ended with the Samhain on November 1. In those days the May Day custom was the setting of new fire. It was one of the ancient New Year rites performed throughout the world. The fire itself was thought to lend life to the burgeoning springtime sun. Cattle were driven through the fire to purify them. Men, with their sweethearts, passed through the smoke for seeing good luck.
Then the Romans came to occupy the British Isles. The beginning of May was a very popular feast time for the Romans. It was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers. It was a five day celebration in her honor, called the Floralia. The festival would start on April 28 and end on May 2. Gradually the rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane, and many of today's customs on May Day bear a stark similarity with those combined traditions.
May day observance was discouraged by the Puritans. It was revived when the Puritans lost power in England, but it didn't have the same robust force. Gradually, it came to be regarded more as a day of joy and merriment for the kids, rather than a day of observing the ancient fertility rights.
If anyone needs me today, I'll be in the back yard running the cattle through the char broiler and then I may engage in some fertility rites—either with or without Martha, depending on whether or not she has a headache.
Oh, just a bit more history. The Puritans in America are now called Republicans.