Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wash Your Face in the Morning Dew

Did you run out first thing this morning to wash your face in the morning dew? According to folklore, doing so will enable you to see fairies in the coming year, or see the face of your new husband. I don't need a new husband, but I am hopeful of seeing fairies. One never knows what might do the trick.

Washing in the May morning dew is also supposed to make you more beautiful. At my age I don't think it will help much but I admit it felt wonderfully refreshing. Of course, it rained last night so perhaps what I was really washing in was rainwater. Either way, it felt cool and soft on my skin. (If you are interested in more fairy lore, do visit the Fairy Chronicles.) Men can benefit from a May morning wash too, if they wash in the dew from a hawthorn tree.

Today is May Day. My neighbor Belva called it Flower Day, the day it was safe to put flower seeds in the ground. She must have known something because every year she had the most beautiful zinnias. When I was young, Mom would create a "May Altar," a little shrine in the house with a statue of the Virgin Mary on a raised platform in the center. She would fill vases with sweet scented iris, peonies, roses and other May blooming blossoms and kept them refreshed all month. The house would smell so good, especially since the smells of wax and lemon oil still lingered from the Easter cleaning.

 May was also the month for the May procession, usually held the first Sunday in May. The photo at left is from the website of the Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, MO, where the procession has been held for over 90 years. This year they plan to have it this coming Sunday, May 6th.


When I was a child, we would dress in our prettiest clothes for this church event. All the children (and perhaps adults too, but I don't remember them) would walk in a long procession around the church grounds, carrying flowers and singing songs to the Blessed Virgin. The flowers were carried to the statue of Mary in the church and laid at her feet. I remember wearing my First Communion dress the year I received that sacrament and for several years after until it no longer fit. I was the girl selected to crown Mary, standing on a stool, I think, and stretching up to place the crown of flowers on her head, being very careful not to get it crooked. It was a special honor but at the time all I can recall feeling is scared I would somehow mess up my role. The whole event was very lovely and it remains one of my best memories of my years in the Catholic church. This photo at left was taken in 1954 when I was three, so it was a bit before my starring role in the procession!

Easter and May were times to wear our Easter hats. Mom loved hats and in fact always wore them to church even when it was no longer required that women do so. We had new hats or refurbished hats every Easter, to be worn into the summer until we'd finally put them up and wear our chaplets (small lace head coverings) because they were just easier. This is Mom in the early 1980's, dressed and ready to go. It must have been an early Easter that year because there are no flowers blooming and the grass had not yet greened up. But Mom looked lovely, didn't she?

So many May memories were stirred up this May morning. Let's close this post with a poem:

  


 
May Day
by Sarah Teasdale
(1884-1933)

 
A delicate fabric of bird song
Floats in the air,
The smell of wet wild earth
Is everywhere.

Red small leaves of the maple
Are clenched like a hand,
Like girls at their first communion
The pear trees stand.

Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The raindrop try with my lips,
The grass with my touch;

For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain?




8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Susannna:

Thanks for awakening my long dormant memories of May altars, family Easters, serving Mass on E
Easter morning,songs honoring the Blessed Virgin, and grandpa taking of all out to a fancy restaurant for Easter dinner. White shirts and ties,a new suit and shoes. It seems that the weather was always just perfect.

Anonymous said...

Every time I smell irises I am once more in the hallway of the old house during May with the May alter in full flower. I remember you putting the crown on Mary. :) Love you tm

Anonymous said...

Not washing my face in the morning dew today. It was 38 degrees outside. Brrr. Batsy in Idaho

Rowan said...

No washing my face in the morning dew on May Day for me - too late for that to be of any help and it was pouring with rain anyway:) I didn't know it enabled you to see fairies though or I might have given it a try in spite of the rain.

Jeanne said...

If you say "White rabbits, white rabbits" before you speak anything else when you wake up on May 1st...you will have good luck all month! I loved reading about washing in the morning dew!

Nance said...

I did not wash my face. That is not one of my traditions but would love to teach it to my 5 granddaughters. and yes, your Mama is lovely. and I bet so loving.

Jaime said...

We are definitely going to have to find Michaela some May dew so she can see some fairies.

Caroline mc d said...

I washed my face in the May dew this morning as I have tried to do every May Day my mum told me abot this and for 68 she looks 55 I myself am 48 but people say I look nowhere near it :) so I'm gonna keep this up every May Day for as long as I can and it felt great too so go on give it a try. Love Caroline x

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