May Day 2020

Saturday, May 2, 2020

An important part of graduation weekend is the May Day ceremony, one of Bluffton’s oldest traditions, which began in 1910. It intertwines the past with alumni reunions, the present by honoring this year's graduates, and the future when honored first-year students perform the traditional Maypole dance. 

In light of the Governor’s order to “stay at home,” the increasing number of coronavirus cases and our desire to keep the Bluffton Village and the Bluffton University communities safe, the decision has been made to postpone in-person gatherings for May Day and graduation weekend.

 The alumni office plans to explore possibilities for some Virtual May Day activities to honor this venerable Bluffton tradition. If you would like to suggest a Virtual May Day or celebratory idea, please email Claire Clay, alumni relations manager, at clayc@bluffton.edu.

 

may day

History

Bluffton students, parents and alumni celebrate May Day each year on an early May weekend. This celebration includes alumni reunions, graduation events and student activities.

The May Day tradition at Bluffton University dates back to 1910 and continues to feature the Maypole dance, perhaps the most spectacular event of the weekend.

Each year, 16 first-year students, eight men and eight women, are chosen to dance the Maypole dance. The dance takes place around a large pole. The dancers, wearing colorful, Germanic-style costumes, encircle the pole. Then each couple in turn grabs two streamers that are hung from the top of the pole. The dancers proceed to weave the streamers around the pole. When the dancers have wound their streamers part way down the pole, the weaving stops and each couple is reunited.

m dance May Day celebrations were once popular across the United States at many colleges and universities. However, they are now rare.

May Day celebrations date back to 238 B.C. in Rome. The Roman holiday was a celebration of the goddess Flora and the coming of spring. In England, May Day was a celebration of flowers and the coming of spring after a cold winter. The May Day dance represented the joy of the coming of spring and the streamers represented the rays of the sun.

At Bluffton the May Day celebration represents the end of a school year for students, the beginning of a new chapter for seniors and the remembrance of times past for alumni. The tradition weaves together past, present and future around the Maypole in a never-ending circle.

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