On May Day, it was customary for the ancient Romans to march in a procession to the grotto of Egena, where they carried out ceremonies honouring the revival of vegetation and to assure abundant crops.
May Day was symbolic of a return to life, of the defeat of the hard winter, with new hopes for good planting and rich harvests. After blessing the cows with protective bonfire smoke, they were turned out to pasture. Because of the abundance of grass, the milk was of a finer quality, the cows yielded much more abundantly, and had to be milked three times each day. With such a flush of milk in the dairies, farmers would use the surplus to make cheese.
Another tradition was for young maidens to wash their faces in the morning dew on the 1st of May to ensure they would have lasting beauty.
Since ancient times, the 1st of May has been a day for outdoor festivals. The English have observed May Day since medieval times. All classes of people used to rise at dawn to go “a-maying.” They would return laden with flowers and branches of trees to decorate their homes. A May Queen was crowned to reign over the games, dancing, and festivities. Flowers and sweetmeats and a May pole with streamers was always the main feature.