May, the fifth month of the calendar year, is largely believed to have been named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. May also is said to have come from the Latin word “mairoes” meaning “elders” and are also celebrated in some fashion during the month. May is the time of year noted for its shining sun, chirping birds, blooming flowers and growing gardens. The month of May also acts as the bridge between spring and summer, hinting at warmer weather for those still stuck in spring’s mildness, while starting to heat things up in preparation for the warmer, summer days to come. Here are some additional fun facts about the month of May as stated in the “Old Farmer’s Almanac”, courtesy of Patsy Zima:
- May’s Full Moon, the Flower Moon, occurs on Wednesday, May 26, and will reach its peak illumination at 7:14 AM (EDT). To see it well, go outside on the evening of May 25 and look for a big, bright, shining lunar disc! The Flower Moon will also be a supermoon and will coincide with a total lunar eclipse that will be visible in some parts of North America.
- May’s birth flowers are the Hawthorn and the Lily of the Valley. The Hawthorn represents hope, while the Lily-of-the-Valley symbolizes the sweetness of the return of happiness.
- The birthstone for May is the beautiful emerald. Some of the world’s best emeralds come from South American mines, although the oldest known emerald actually came from Egypt and Cleopatra’s favorite of the gems of the world. The emerald is a symbol of rebirth and fertility, as well as thought to grant great foresight, cure diseases, soothe nerves, improve memory, and to ensure loyalty.
- May 23 is the birthdate of Swedish botanist and naturalist Carl Linnaeus, the originator of the use of O (the symbol for Mars) to mean male and the I (the symbol for Venus) to mean female. One of Linnaeus’ major achievements was the formal introduction of a system of classifying and naming organisms according to genus and species, called binomial nomenclature – for example, humans are classified as Homo sapiens with homo meaning “man” (genus) and sapiens meaning “wise” (species). Scientists today still use a modified version of Linnaeus’ system.
- May Day, which is May 1, began as an ancient rite that related human fertility to crop fertility. It was a day to celebrate with the crowning of a May queen, dances around a maypole, mummers’ plays and lots of budding flowers. Although the Pilgrims were horrified by the reminders of a pagan past and actually outlawed such activities, the maypole dance remained as an enduring event. In Great Britain, May 1 is celebrated by “bringing in the May” which involves gathering branches with buds on them to bring into the home to welcome spring and new life. In Hawaii, May 1 is celebrated as Lei Day.
- America’s most famous horse race is the Kentucky Derby, which has been held continuously since 1975 at Louisville, Kentucky, and is one of our country’s largest civic celebrations. (Not bad for a race that only lasts two minutes!) The race is modeled after England’s Epsom Derby. The first Kentucky Derby was organized by Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark.
- Cinco de Mayo, or “The Fifth of May,” is a celebration of the victory of the Mexican army over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
- May is also the month in which we celebrate Mother’s Day. The real history of Mothers’ Day in the U.S. may surprise you. Three women, Ann Reeves Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe, and Ann’s daughter, Anna M. Jarvis, championed efforts toward better health, welfare, peace, and love, and contributed to the day we celebrate annually on the second Sunday in May. They felt mothers should be treated to a day off and began as a desire to better the lives of American women.
- Other dates of importance in May are
– May 15: National Armed Forces Day – honoring all branches of the military.
– May 22: National Maritime Day – in recognition of the efforts of the U.S. merchant marine during both war and peace.
– May 31: Memorial Day – a poignant reminder of the tenacity of life and is celebrated on the last Monday in May in remembrance of the men, women, and dogs who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and freedom.
Edited by Diana Blidy