Friday, May 1, 2009

Wanted: May Bushes!

Photo courtesy Dr. Philip Hiscock, Dept of Folklore

Today is the first day of May, and in some parts of Newfoundland, that meant that May bushes would soon be seen. These would be spruce or fir saplings stripped of most of their limbs, except for few near the top, which would be festooned with strips of coloured cloth or ribbons.

“When I was a primary or elementary school kid at a Catholic school, each May students wore blue ribbons pinned to their clothes in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Blue ribbons showed up around our neighbourhoods, too, on May bushes – saplings with most of their branches cut off, except for the few left around the top with the ribbons on them. This tradition can be traced back to the ancient Celts, who used maypoles or boughs as part of springtime rituals and to bring good luck, especially for agriculture."
- Lara Maynard, Torbay

While this tradition isn't as popular as it once was, there are are few places where May bushes still make an appearance. If you see one, or know of someone who is keeping this old tradition alive, please email me at or call 1-888-739-1892 ext 2. I'd love a picture if you have one!

Read Lara Maynard's article on Newfoundland May Bushes here:

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