The sun shines. Temperatures rise. Flowers bloom.  Spring has arrived.  For centuries, this event has been a cause for celebration.  In many cultures this took the form of a festival on May 1.  In other cultures, the celebration was in June.

Such festivals frequently featured games, pageants, and the crowning of a young woman as May Queen.  The photograph shows another custom common to these festivals– a maypole.

No one knows the origins of this custom but it dates back to medieval Europe and possibly events earlier.  A pole was erected in the middle of a square and colorful ribbons attached to the top.  Men and women alternated in a circle around the base.  Each person held the end of a ribbon and then began to dance around the pole, the men going in one direction and the women in the opposite.  As they wove in and out, the ribbons wrapped around the pole until everyone met at its base. Some of the dances were complicated routines but most were simple.

The maypole in the photograph was part of the May Day festivities at what is now Oregon State University sometime during the 1906-1909 period.  The students are wearing medieval garb.  The May Day event also featured a parade and a float of decorated boats on the Marys River.

Although the maypole tradition ended at OSU sometime in the 1920s, it continued to be a feature of some school and camp activities at least until sometime in the 1960s.  In this photograph, students at Philomath High School celebrate the end of school by dancing around a maypole.

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