May 1st, “May Day” is a world-wide holiday celebrating events in history and culture. It is a marker of the seasons, and a touchstone for many political traditions including the International labor movement, the old Soviet Union, and Cold War-era US patriotic observances. In the context of your personal health and sustainability, the beginning of May is a good time for a seasonal reset and preparation for the warmer and longer days of the summer months.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, I find it helpful to think of May 1st in the guise of the Northern European Celtic holiday of Beltane. Like many modern holidays with ancient earth-based roots (e.g., Christmas, Easter, Halloween), May 1st is a time celebrate life, fertility, and health.

The way my family and I approach the seasons is inspired by these holistic traditions. In our way of thinking, May 1st is the first day of summer. The Summer Solstice, June 21, the longest day of the year, is the height of summer (“Midsummer” as in Shakespeare’s play.) In this view, the early August Lughnasgh holiday becomes the end of Summer and beginning of Fall. The Autumn equinox (September 21), becomes the Mid-Fall, it’s essence being the balance of day of night, with night gaining ascendance. Halloween (ancient Samhain) becomes the first Day of Winter, and the Winter Solstice, Dec 21, is the depth of winter, the longest nights and shortest days of the year. I find this perspective helps me and my family to anticipate the seasons and to live them to their fullest expression.

Things to do around May 1 and early May:

  • A seasonal fast to get ready for the summer
  • Check the sunrise times and better align your waking with the sunrise and the longer days
  • Prepare for the warmer outdoor season and opportunities for gardening, hikes and camping
  • Take advantage of the last of the high-country snows and mountaineering while the snow still covers high elevations but the weather is less severe and daylight more plentiful.

How do you mark this time of year?

Dr. Thomas Doherty

Published by Thomas Doherty

Psychologist Thomas Doherty's work on environmental sustainability and health has been featured in publications like the New York Times and in talks worldwide. Thomas consults with individuals and organizations through his business Sustainable Self. He was the founding Director of the Ecopsychology Certificate Program at Lewis & Clark Graduate School and Founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed academic journal Ecopsychology. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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