This post is linked to Maria’s Postcards for the Weekend. If you would like to see other folk’s posts on this subject please visit Maria’s blog and follow the links. They are always well worth viewing.
110 – This card came from Monica in Sweden and shows the raising of the Midsummer pole. It could just as easily be an English card in which case it would be raised on 1st May.
A maypole is a tall wooden pole erected as a part of various European folk festivals, around which a maypole dance often takes place. In some cases the maypole is a permanent feature that is only utilised during the festival, although in other cases it is erected specifically for the purpose before being taken down again.
Primarily found within the nations of Germanic Europe and the neighbouring areas which they have influenced, its origins remain unknown, although it has been speculated that it originally had some importance in the Germanic paganism of Iron Age and early Medieval cultures, and that the tradition survived Christianisation, albeit losing any original meaning that it had. It has been a recorded practice in many parts of Europe throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods, although it became less popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the tradition is still observed in some parts of Europe and among European communities in North America.
In Britain the maypole was found primarily in England and in areas of Scotland and Wales which were under English influence. However, the earliest recorded evidence comes from a Welsh poem written by Gryffydd ap Adda ap Dafydd in the mid-14th century, in which he described how people used a tall birch pole at Llanidloes, central Wales. Literary evidence for maypole use across much of Britain increases in later decades, and "by the period 1350-1400 the custom was well established across southern Britain, in town and country and in both Welsh-speaking and English-speaking areas."