The image is of John Collier’s painting of Queen Guinevere’s Maying
May Day, not to be confused with the emergency ‘mayday’, on May 1 is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday. It is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. May Day coincides with International Workers’ Day, and in many countries that celebrate the latter, it may be referred to as “May Day”.
The emergency call: ‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,’ is believed to have originated in 1923 with Frederick Stanley Mockford (1897–1962). A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, Mockford was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word “Mayday” from the French “m’aider” (“venez m’aider” meaning “come help me”). Now you know!
Back to the topic at hand though;
Traditional British May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and celebrations involving a maypole. Much of this tradition derives from the pagan Anglo-Saxon customs held during “Þrimilci-mōnaþ” (the Old English name for the month of May meaning Month of Three Milkings) along with many Celtic traditions.
May Day has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the centuries. May Day is most associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility (of the soil, livestock, and people) and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings. Since the reform of the Catholic calendar, May 1 is the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of workers. Seeding has been completed by this date and it was convenient to give farm labourers a day off. Perhaps the most significant of the traditions is the maypole, around which traditional dancers circle with ribbons.
The May Day bank holiday, on the first Monday in May, was traditionally the only one to affect the state school calendar, although new arrangements in some areas to even out the length of school terms mean that Good Friday (a common law holiday) and Easter Monday (a bank holiday), which vary from year to year, may also fall during term time. The Spring Bank Holiday on the first Monday in May was created in 1978.
Now, what has this to do with water coolers one may ask? Hm, well, May 1st is in spring; spring means renewal; May blossoms; blossoms require water as without water there would be no blossoms blossoming; crops growing and without hydrated humans to grow those crops … you get the general idea.