A dear, departed friend from Lavergne in France used to send me lily of the valley on May 1st. She told me that is a French custom to send the flowers to loved ones so I did a quick search to get further info. Wikipedia offered me this: On May 1st, 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer the flowers each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom on the 1st of May, to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime. The government permits individuals and workers' organisations to sell them free of taxation.
It is also traditional for the lady receiving the spray of lily of valley to give a kiss in return.
How very civilised I thought....compared to the May Day customs of the British.
In Oxford, it is traditional for May Morning revellers to gather below the Great Tower of Magdalen College at 6.00am to listen to the college choir sing traditional madrigals as a conclusion to the previous night's celebrations. In recent years the Magdalen Bridge has been closed on 1st May to prevent people from jumping as the water under the bridge is only 2 feet (61 cm)deep. Although serious injuries have been sustained there are people still who insist on leaping.
When I was a student we would scale the fire escape from our dormitory at sunrise on May Day to wash our face in the dawn dew, much safer.
Padstow in Cornwall holds its annual 'Obby Oss' (hobby horse) day of festivities. This is believed to be one of the oldest fertility rites in the UK; revellers dance with the Oss through the streets of the town and even through the private gardens of the citizens, accompanied by accordion players and followers dressed in white with red or blue sashes who sing the traditional 'May Day' song.
In St Andrews, students gather on the beach late on April 30 and run into the North Sea (Yikes, this is not the Caribbean!) at sunrise on May Day, occasionally naked. This is accompanied by torchlit processions and much elated celebration.
And there was more! OK, what is it about the British? Does our loopiness know no boundaries? Are my fellow countrymen barking mad? As an antidote to our daftness here is a perfectly sane stencil project using VN156 Lily of the Valley stencil.
Firstly, use a plumb line to make sure the stencil is level. I have sprayed a light mist of repositioning adhesive to the back of my stencil and I press it to the wall.
I take a small amount of paint onto the stencil brush and work away any excess paint onto paper towel then apply damp paint though the stencil. This stencil has double registration points. I stick low tack tape onto the walls directly below the points and mark them with paint.
See the marks on the tape? Now I remove the stencil and position the next overlay.
The registration points on the second overlay fit exactly over the marks on the tape.
Using a separate brush for each colour I apply paint to the ribbons and flower heads. Make sure that the paint is not wet.
To repeat the pattern just fit the printed areas on the stencil over a bit that you have just painted.
See, how sane is that? May you have spring in your steps this May Day.
Michele, your friends remember you every Mai 1st.