May Day celebrations connect back to the old Celtic festival of Beltane, signalling the end of winter. Later, the Romans added the celebration of Flora, the goddess of flowers, and Maia, the goddess of spring. During the Middle Ages, the Maypole was introduced to the spring event as villages competed for the tallest Maypole, with games, sports and dancing occurring around the pole. Today, schools, communities, festivals and clubs dance and play around the Maypole in celebration of spring.
Hobby Horse Relay Race
Make two hobby horses, one for each team of children. Build the hobby horses out of broomsticks or other short sticks, add yarn or grass for the tail, and put a head on made from cardboard or an empty paper bag. Each "rider" must race to the turnaround point in line with the Maypole, run back and give the horse to the next child.
With traditional Maypole dancing, different coloured-ribbons are attached to the top of the pole. Children stand at the foot of the Maypole, each holding the end of a ribbon. As the walk forward, the ribbons wind around the pole, as they retrace their steps, the ribbons unwind. Morris dancing, an English tradition also fits as a Maypole activity. Give the children small bells, white handkerchiefs and sticks, and have them dance around the Maypole to medieval music or nursery rhyme songs.
Gingerbread Man Tag
Gingerbread men were a favourite festival food during the Middle Ages. Bring a gingerbread man to life with a brown costume decorated with buttons, eyes, nose and mouth. The gingerbread man becomes the chaser in a game of tag. Each time a child is tagged, they must run to the Maypole and eat a gingerbread man cookie before rejoining the game.
Flower Carrying Race
Flowers, always part of a Maypole celebration, become part of a relay race. Line the children up, each with a large spoon and a flower. The children have to carry the flower on their spoon to the end of the field, turnaround and return to the start. Any time they drop the flower, they need to return to the starting point and begin again. Use the Maypole as either the starting point or the turnaround point.