Do you know about the Maypole Dance? Celebrate the beauty of Spring

Do you know about the Maypole Dance? Celebrate the beauty of Spring

Geoffrey Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde wrote, “And after winter folweth grene May.”


One tradition in Chaucer’s England and abroad is the maypole. Villagers raise a tall pole garlanded with greenery and flowers at whose top different colored ribbons are hung.

Music plays as the steps dancers take below are reflected in the complex patterns of the interwoven ribbons above that eventually meet at the base. These festivals often occur on May Day (May 1st) and are remnants of ancient dances around living trees to ensure fertility among spring plantings of crops.

Maypole dances are found in Germany, Spain, among the Basque, Scandinavia, India, and pre-Columbian Latin America. They celebrate a range of meanings: love in Austria, protection in Hungary, freedom in America, and solidarity with workers in Italy. Among the Plains peoples in North America the Sun Dancers offer their dance as a sacrifice for community healing.

Consider how trees provide stability to soil through their root system, shade through limbs and leaves, shelter to creatures that nest in their branches, and sustenance from their fruits and nuts. The central role trees play in our lives is celebrated in maypole traditions and the ways our lives are interwoven with the larger natural and cultural worlds around us. Maypoles illustrate that our lives are centered around a fixed point from which we draw meaning and purpose with others in community.

Ponder those “trees” in whose orbit we have flourished: family, friends, teachers, coaches, and mentors.

  • What is the fixed point around which our lives are centered?
  • What are we sacrificing and offering for the healing of our community?
  • What is our purpose and with whom are we dancing?
  • What patterns do we see over the years?
  • How are we providing stability, shade, shelter, and sustenance to those around us?


Rev. Dr. Sybrant serves at Murray Hills Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For more info, visit us at 15050 SW Weir Road, Beaverton. | 503-524-5230