Although May Day springtime festivals aren’t nearly as prominent as they once were, for many Indianapolis residents, the first day of May is still a sentimental marker for the time of year when winter’s chill can be pretty much tossed in the memory bin. Cold waves may still dominate Indianapolis weather reports, but they can now be treated as newsworthy anomalies. And Punxsutawney Phil’s dubious reliability scorecard can now be officially improved—this year, he was right: spring was slow in coming.
Outside of elementary schools, European folk customs (like dancing around the Maypole) have never been staples here in the U.S.—although more than one child may still be expected to gather flowers and surreptitiously hang a basket where Mom will find it.
The ancient roots of Indianapolis’s May Day observance go back to pagan festivals celebrating the arrival of Spring—a decidedly welcome event for medieval peoples dependent on the Sun’s warmth to usher in the growing season. It’s ironic that European despots hijacked the date to parade their war-making machinery in public. Go figure.
And then there is the alarming second meaning for “May Day”—as a distress signal. When repeated three times over radio waves,“ MAY DAY MAY DAY MAY DAY” means “HELP!!!!” according to an international agreement. If that seems oddly inappropriate, it’s only because the origin of that alternative to “SOS” isn’t well known. It was created by an early English airfield superintendent who adopted the French for ‘help me’—“m’aider” (pronounced something like ‘mid-dee’), which English speakers misunderstood (and insisted on spelling).
Indianapolis’s May Day is now upon us. Here’s hoping the good weather predominates this spring. If your own 2023 is to involve Indianapolis real estate matters, I hope you’ll include a call to us on the calendar!