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Mayday Spotlight | The Best Spots to Celebrate May Day in Cornwall

Mayday Spotlight | The Best Spots to Celebrate May Day in Cornwall

At St. Eval, we're gearing up to indulge in the upcoming early bank Holiday's and celebrate the longstanding and treasured tradition of May Day. Awash with the bright, light and sprightly days of May, learn more about the history of May Day and the best spots to embrace the seasonal merriment over the course of the week in Cornwall.

Bursting with pride for the bounty of spring, the origins of May Day is deep rooted in the Gaelic world and is derived from the Beltane festival, 'the fire of Bel', signifying to the Celts the first day of summer and celebrated as an ode to the gifts bestowed by the welcoming of a new season. The ever present symbolism focused upon the first day of May began to emerge throughout time as a chance to feast, dance and bask in the revelry in towns and villages throughout the British Isles and medieval periods. A considerably cheery but chaotic affair, a May Day ritual unraveled surrounding the appointment of ordinary people to become lord and lady for the day. Heightened during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, the focus shifted to the selection of a new young girl each year, dressed in white and adorned with a crown composed of flowers, embodying the young May Queens which lives to be seen amidst may Day celebrations in various villages dotted across the UK today.

When we picture May Day in today's society, we are struck with a quintessential vision of dancers young and old weaving intricately amidst the long ribbons of the may pole, witnessing the haze of the day's celebrations. Ingrained throughout the generations, May Day symbolises a series of lifelong cherished memories and ancestorial connections from mid 14th Century Wales to today, presenting a picturesque token of childhood innocence, harmless fun and nostalgia.

Despite all this, the origins of the May Day Bank Holiday didn't come into play until instituted by then Labour Employment Secretary Michael Foot in 1978. Causing initial latter-day controversy and division for those who objected due to the socialist connotations of the date, with May 1st once designated as International Workers' Day in 1891, soon the celebration of spring and it's overarching festivities embraced communities, overcame it's previous political turmoil and has experienced a string of recent contemporary revivals.

Padstow Obby Oss

A celebration of the Celtic feast of Beltane and one of the UK's oldest festivals. this year's midweek May Day celebration takes place on May 1st in Padstow and pays tribute to the soon-come summer, as people fill the narrow streets and stunning harbour with bright bunting, worldly flags and flourishing flowers of the season. Featuring a grand May pole, the traditional two prancing 'osses', a theatrical procession, muisc makers and an abundance of ribbon, cowslip and bluebell adorned costumes, Padstow's Obby Oss celebrations champion a fruitful vibrancy and special occasion for all ages, destined to bring families, friends and communities together.

May Day, St. Ives

Commencing from midday on Monday 6th May at the Guildhall in Street-an-Pol, St. Ives May Day is set to honour it's Celtic roots with the appointment of the May King and Queen, embellish the freshly picked spring blooms and exude effervescence amongst the paradisical streets of South Cornwall's St. Ives. Much like Padstow's Obby Oss, the children's encouraged dancing amongst the May pole maintains a presence of heritage, history and Cornish ancestry, sparking joy for families and the hope of idyllic sun kissed summer days to come.

St. Agnes Bolster Festival

Rooted in Cornish legend, the Bolster festival honours the legend of the Cornish giant Bolster, believed to be one of the many bad tempered giants inhabiting Cornish soil, fiercely terrifying the good folk of the north coast, before falling in love and reaching his downfall with the virtuous St. Agnes, the patron saint for which the village was named after.

Centered around the spirit of tradition-based crafts, community and local live music, St. Agnes's May Bank Holiday weekend of gaiety kickstarts on Saturday 4th May with a bonfire and barbecue at The Beacon, with a procession leaving Churchtown at 8:15pm. Following on from Saturday's revelry, Sunday 5th May celebrates the art of street theatre at The Railway Inn from 12:30pm onwards. From 4pm at Chapel Porth, the peak of the weekend's festivities are set underway with the Bolster Pageant, boasting an abundance of life-sized puppets, a drum band procession and a 28ft giant effigy reenacting the Cornish legend of the giant, Bolster.

May Horns, Penzance

Commemorated on the first Sunday of May, falling on May 5th this year, the Penzance May Horns is an open invite event which tips it hat to the turn of the season. Believed to drive the Devil of Winter and cordially welcome the warmth of Summer, attendees adorn themselves in flowers and green garlands in light white or green shades, proceeding as one in musical harmony across the Penzance seafront. The annually staged event will convene at The Tolcarne Inn Newlyn at 7:30pm, and encourages the spirit of noise making in whatever form you feel, from a light whistle or horn to the powerful snare of drums.

Regardless of where you are across Cornwall or the UK this May Day and May Bank Holiday, we hope you have a sensational time celebrating, indulging yourself in time spent with loved ones and seizing the sprightly spirit of spring in bite sized moments or terrific festivities.

Why not share with us your treasured Cornish, Celtic or May Day tradition and your favourite spot to celebrate with us over on Instagram @stevalcandles or via email at

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