5 crazy May Day celebrations in Europe

In the northern hemisphere, May 1 marks the start of spring. You won't believe how some countries celebrate it...

4 mins

European adder (Shutterstock.com)European adder (Shutterstock)

1. Irminden – Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, May Day is associated with snakes and lizards, and, more importantly, the rituals the locals have to perform to protect people from them.

Old Bulgarians believe that snakes come out on the days of Annunciation, and on Irminden their king comes out. Hence, if people work in the fields on May 1 they will almost certainly be bitten by a snake in the summer.

To avoid this happening, fires are lit for people to jump over and make noise to scare the snakes away.

German Maibaum (Shutterstock.com)German Maibaum (Shutterstock)

2. Walpurgisnacht – Germany

High in the Harz Mountains of Germany they celebrate May Day the night before with bonfires and the wrapping of the Maibaum (maypole). People use the opportunity to party under the guise of the motto 'Tanz in den Mai!' ('Dance into May!'. May 1 itself usually involves going for a walk to get fresh air. And nurse the inevitable hangover.

Walpurgis Night bonfire (Shutterstock.com)Walpurgis Night bonfire (Shutterstock)

3. Walpurgis Night – Finland

Like their German cousins, young Finns like to start celebrating May Day the night before, with night-long parties that culminate in 'crowning' statues around town with student caps. May Day itself, or Vappu as the Finns like to call it, is celebrated with street parties and the consumption of a special lemonade made from lemons, brown sugar and yeast, called sima.

Magdalen Bridge, Oxford (Shutterstock.com)Magdalen Bridge, Oxford. Broken limbs not shown. (Shutterstock)

4. May Morning – Oxford, England

In this famous university town, students gather below the Great Tower of Magdalen College at 6am to listen to the college choir sing traditional madrigals. With that out of the way they then jump off Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell. In recent years the bridge has been closed on May 1 to save the students from themselves. The water is only two feet deep and many were injury themselves, some quite badly.

Not the Kettle Bridge Clogs (Shutterstock.com)

Not the Kettle Bridge Clogs (Shutterstock)

5. Kettle Bridge Clogs, Maidstone, England

May 1 marks the official start of the morris dancing season in England and to mark the occasion, the Kettle Bridge Clogs morris dancing troupe dance across the Barming Bridge, spanning the River Medway near Maidstone. It happens at 7.15pm on May 1 each year.


Main image: The Green Man and May Queen (Shutterstock)

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