Elevate artist Stephanie Jalland reflects on the traditions of May.


May, named after Maia goddess of springtime and growth, is such a pretty month and begins with celebrations all around the world as we delight in the season.

On 1st May young girls used to rush out and wash their faces in the May dew which is said to have magical properties, anyone who washes their face in it will have a beautiful complexion for the whole year.

In France sprigs of Lily of the Valley are given as tokens of good luck for the year ahead. As the birth flower for May it means ‘the return of happiness’.

On May Day, people used to cut down young trees and stick them in the ground in the village to dance around in celebration of the end of winter and the start of the fine weather that would allow planting to begin.

I wonder if you ever danced around a maypole? On the village green or in the school playground? Were you a May Queen or a Morris dancer? The tallest maypole is said to have been erected in London on the Strand in 1661; it stood over 143 feet high. It was felled in 1717, when it was used by Isaac Newton to support Huygen’s new reflecting telescope.


‘Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May be out’


Lots of differing opinions about this expression. Does it mean the end of the month or the May blossom is blooming? Whatever, the weather is certainly unpredictable and warm clothes should not be packed away yet.


‘May is a blue and gold and green,
Not a trace of cloud is seen;
Yet I find along the way
Snowflakes falling all the day.’
from the poem May Snow by Annette Whynn


A Bank Holiday at each end of the month. Hawthorn blossom and cow parsley froth in the lanes. Everything green and white and vibrant, not surprising then that people would go out before sunrise to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune.

You could write your own May poem. Sit and imagine the scent of Lily of the Valley and May blossoms like snow in the air and let your mind drift to all the things May makes you think of, the sights, sounds, smells, colours, weather, flowers, food, people, activities? Write them as a list beginning with, ‘May is…’



More from Stephanie and the Elevate artists

During the spring and summer 2020 Stephanie Jalland recorded her monthly reflections, sharing the sights and sounds around her home in Downton. You can listen to all of Stephanie’s monthly recordings here.

Download ‘Take the time’ Issue 9 – Spring reflections and birdsong (pdf)

Send us your contribution

We love to include some of your own reflections in future posts and in our monthly print edition ‘Elevate your mood’ or quarterly printed tabloid ‘Take the time’. Why not write a few lines, try a poem or send us picture on the general theme of summer? Email to ArtCare or send to ArtCare, Block 29, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury SP2 8BJ.