The 12-foot Maypole draped with colorful ribbons stood in the middle of Watchung Plaza while school children, teachers and parents gathered on the lawn. Another May Day celebration kicked off May in Montclair’s month-long activities Wednesday afternoon, May 1.

The gloomy weather did not dampen the festivities.

”Who needs sun, when you guys are our sunshine,” said Margot Sage-El of Watchung Booksellers to the children.

Sage-El welcomed the crowd to 41st May in Montclair’s opening ceremonies. Officials present included Freeholder Brendan Gill, Mayor Robert Jackson, Deputy Mayor Sean Spiller, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville, Councilman-At-Large Bob Russo, Police Chief Todd Conforti and Deputy Chief Tracy Frazzano.

Edgemont School teacher Max Mellman’s first graders danced around the Maypole turning left, then right, then left again to the song “Maypole Reel.”

“We are ready to celebrate the arrival of spring,” Mellman said.

This year, Nishuane School students joined in the festivities for the first time. The first-graders, under the direction of teacher Tamam Pereira, sang two songs a cappella, “I Like to Teach the World to Sing,” and “Start a Fire.”

Watchung Teacher Henry Boote’s fourth-and fifth-graders performed “Under the Sea,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Chim Chim Cher-Ee” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Northeast School’s Blue Hawks Band closed the ceremony. The fifth-graders performed “Gettysburg – A Civil War Portrait” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” under the direction of teacher Shawn David Dey.

May in Montclair volunteers planted over 25,000 tulip bulbs. The committee at one time planted daffodils, and over the years changed to tulips, said organizer Karen Shinevar.

May Day
Colorful ribbons flow around the Maypole during May in Montclair’s opening ceremony kicking off their month long celebration on May Day, Wednesday, May 1.

May Day History

May Day, also called Beltaine, is the first day of summer according to the Celtic Druid tradition, and marks the turning of the seasons, also known as the Wheel of the Year.

The celebration begins at dusk on April 30 through the following day. Celebrants dance around a Maypole, light a bonfire, and in ancient times people would jump the fire for purification or fertility, and livestock were passed through two Beltaine fires for purification.

Dancing around the Maypole is a Pagan representation of the joining of the Goddess and God. The colorful ribbons of pink, red, yellow, orange, blue, green and purple weaving around a pole symbolizes the union of the two deities. As people weave around the Maypole, it is customary that a male and female get tangled in the ribbon, and they are then crowned as the May king and queen.

Jaimie is an award-winning journalist and editor.