Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day..... Dia del Trabajo..... End of Winter too!

The 1st of May brings with it many connotations from around the world. From it's inception, way back in the days of Pagan festivals when this was the Goddess Flora's Day.

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora the Roman Goddess of flowers and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe. A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the Maypole and crowning of the Queen of the May. Various Neopagan groups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on May 1.

The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of Spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer. In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary's month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Those of us that grew up Catholic and attended Catholic Schools know well the custom of joining "The Daughter's of Mary" groups, dedicating yourself to life in Her image; plus the yearly month of May being the month of Mary, bringing with it flower offerings in Church while dressed as small "brides of Christ". This is also one of the customs which was "Christianized" when the Church "converted" the old pagan rites and made them more easily acceptable by the masses, now Flora the Goddess of flowers and the Earth Mother were wrapped up in one divine being, the Virgin Mary.

In this connection, in works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary's head will often be adorned with flowers. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of "May baskets," small baskets of sweets and/or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbours' doorsteps, but the practice of ringing doorbells and running away is still practiced by youth all over the world.

Yet with all the pressure exerted by the Church to eradicate the Pagan rituals over the centuries, many of these festivities are still very much with us all over the globe. Here are some examples:


May Day has been celebrated in Ireland since pagan times as the feast of Bealtaine and in latter times as Mary's day, bonfires are lit to mark the coming of summer and to banish the long nights of winter.


In St Andrews, some of the students gather on the beach late on April 30 and run into the North Sea at sunrise on May Day, occasionally naked. This is accompanied by torchlit processions and much elated celebration.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow organize Mayday festivals and rallies. In Edinburgh, the Beltane Fire Festival is held on the evening of May eve and into the early hours of May Day on the city's Calton Hill.


In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of Pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of maypoles, and young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air. Motto: "Tanz in den Mai!" ("Dance into May!



In Hawaii, May Day is also known as Lei Day, and is normally set aside as a day to celebrate island culture in general and native Hawaiian culture in particular.


On May 1st,1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the val

ley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley 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. Now, people may present loved ones with bunches of lily of the valley or dog rose flowers. A friend who lives in Paris wrote to tell me that yesterday all you could see throughout the city were Lily of the Valleys being sold by everyone and being given by lovers to eachother! He said he looks forward to this day since Lilies of theValley are his favorite flower..... I would have liked to see this....

However for those of us in Mexico, May Day is considered "EL Dia del Trabajo" and is synonymous with International Workers' Day, or Labour Day, which celebrates the social and economic achievements o f the labour movement, and how do we celebrate? By not working of course!

Although this year the not working was in support of the AH1N1 Influenza contingency plan and got worked into the "Dia del Nino", 5 de Mayo celebrations, leaving businesses, schools and public buildings closed until the 6th of May so no marches or celebrations for the time being.

We decided t o run some errands and Ricardo had been wanting to go check out the "Central de Abastos" which is the wholesale / Half-Wholesale / Retail markets that are found in all cities throughout Mexico and are the central areas where all food related items and groceries are delivered by truckers and then either picked up or delivered to the local businesses, retail markets or stores from there. The largest found almost anywhere are of course in Mexico City (I love the "La Merced" and the most amazing "LaViga" for only fish and seafood - if you ever go, you should see these.... they are incredible in their size and scope)- so of course in Puebla I expected to find something similar to these and off we went.

I had found it on one of my journeys which my daughter Tarah calls "the road to death".... trips when I'm searching for something not found on the map and I'm being guided by the locals which don't know how to give directions and invariably I end up in the "twilight zone" or dirt roads off the beaten path in the lower class areas of town...... well, this is how I found this place which is located in the upper most North part of town by the Puebla - Orizaba highway (this makes sense since the truckers need easy access). Except that this time I found it with no problem at all. The traffic, the crows, the parking situation were all incredible and there was no hint it was a holiday at all.

First we had to try and understand the organization to this huge place and figure out where the wholesale was vs. the retail and such and then try and find the fruits and vegetables, which was what I wanted to find, from the groceries or dry goods part or the eggs and poultry to paper areas. Huge warehouses showing their signs and advertising how they were better than their neighbors screamed out to you to try them first. When we finally made our way

where we wanted to look (and there are many football stadium sized warehouses for each subject too) and crawled to find a parking spot (the traffic was staggering! both vehicle and foot), we arrived and bega n our trek up the ramps and toward the stalls filled with all types of fruits and vegetables. Merchants calling out to you "marchanta, yo le vendo aqui!" which is the generic term for a customer and letting you know they will sell to you here..), so up and down we went looking for a sack of juice oranges ($2 pesos a kilo). We also got some figs at $5 pesos a 1/4 kilo and a basket of blackberries for $15 pesos, for the best Blackberry Cream Gelatto you've ever had (I made it last night and it's all gone!.....) and a good sized ripe papaya for $15 pesos.

There were food stalls too offering some carne asada tacos that reminded me of Tijuana,
fresh pineapple juice stalls whose aroma was fruity and tropical and made you want to try.... some stalls already had the fruit peeled and ready to eat in cups and sticks for you to eat right ther e but then we almost got run over by the garbage guy pushing this huge metal container filled with frementing fruit which I could have easily missed as this "aroma" is not the most pleasant to me.

Price wise the difference wasn't significant enough to me to warrant this excursion on a weekly basis and I have municipal markets closer to home which make more sense to me, both monetarily and time wise, to go instead of going all that way to save a few pennies. But most of all it's not worth the aggravation this trip entailed and even Ricardo, the #1 let's search for a good buy guy, agreed that we'd be better of at the Emiliano Zapata or Calle 18th markets close to home.

In Merida it does make a difference since prices there are vastly lower than the supermarkets and the trip is not so traumatic. The market is on 128th street off Canek Avenue (go down Canek, take a left at the light in front of the Pemex station before you hit the Libramiento) and it's close to town, the parking is nothing at all and no crowds either. But here, like in most large cities, the chaos is sometimes too much to take and not worth it.

It was a good drive anyway on a sunny day down the 5 de Mayo Boulevard, past the "China Poblana Fountain" and into downtown. Due to the contingency plan the traffic was less than ususal and parking and cars where calmer too, so it was a nice outing and convinced my hubby that the other markets are pretty good and practical as well.

We got home in time for lunch, afterwards Ricardo went to take his nap while the kids and I made some Japanese Green Tea Mix we got at the Itto Sushi place the other day, sat by the front windows watching the birds come, talked and relaxed on a lovely Spring afternoon.

All in all it was another good day in Puebla..... hope your day was good too!

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