BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

John Denney 1 May 2002

It’s the First of May – May Day.  I remember in the distant days of my childhood, the school Maypole was brought out and we danced and hopped in and out, led by the May Queen we had chosen, interweaving the coloured ribbons until the pole was braided.  We sang a May song:

Round and round the maypole, merrily we go,

Tripping, tripping lightly, singing as we go.

O, the happy pastime, on the village green,

Dancing in the sunshine - hurrah for the Queen!

Do they still dance round the Maypole, carefree boys and girls, following in the footsteps of generations of others?  Do young maidens still go out at dawn to wash their faces in the May dew, to ensure that they shall have a beautiful complexion for the rest of the year?  For today is May Day, the traditional start of high summer, a day that for centuries was given over to revelry and carousing.  In 1644, the Puritans banned the merrymaking, so licentious had the festivities become; but then, the Puritans were fond of banning anything that brought pleasure to the drab lives of the people.


May Day became a worker’s festival in the late 1800s and even America celebrates it as Labor Day.  The Catholic Church beat everyone to it, and proclaimed today as the Day of St Joseph the Worker twenty years earlier.


And today, the innocence of May Day has been hijacked by people who are going to demonstrate against what they see as the evils of global capitalism.  Our TV screens are going to show footage of riot and mayhem this evening, with a hardcore of self-proclaimed anarchists signed up to engage in violent protest.  And they will achieve nothing positive, though there will be injury to people and damage to property.


It was while musing on these matters, that I chanced across a couple of anniversaries whose conjunction made me smile, although I don’t quite know why.  For today is the 5th anniversary of Mr Blair being made Prime Minister; and it is the 50th anniversary of the creation of Mr Potato Head.  It’s the ears, I think.


But I chanced across something deep as well.  The great evangelist and preacher George Whitefield wrote this in his diary in 1740 on this day: Lord, show that Thou dost love me, by humbling and keeping me humble as long as I live. The means I leave to Thee.


Maybe the May Day demonstrators could do with a bit of that.  I know I do.


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