Folk Dancing Seasons

Maypole Dance


Maypole Dance – John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown 2019

The tradition of dancing around the Maypole in celebration of Spring dates back to the middle ages. In those days, folks brought in trees from the forest to decorate. As time went by many towns erected a permanent Maypole.

Lucky for me, John C. Campbell Folk School holds a traditional Maypole celebration every year.

If the stars align in Brasstown, the Spring celebration occurs on a beautiful day, which is exactly what happened this year.

My favorite part of the Folk School’s production is the singing of the “May Day Carol.”

I’ve been a-wandring all the night, And the best part of the day. Now I’m returning home again. I bring you a branch of May.

A branch of May, my love, I say As at your door I stand; It’s nothing but a sprout, but it’s well budded out By the work of the Lord’s own hand.

My song is done and I must be gone, I can no longer stay; God bless you all, both great and small And send you a joyful May.

—Kentucky Version from the Ritchie Family of Perry County, KY

I send each of you a joyful May!


Appalachian Cooking Class details

Come cook with me!

Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, June 23 – Saturday, June 29, 2019
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to see how local folks produce food for their families. The Folk School offers scholarships you can go here to find out more about them. For the rest of the class details go here.

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  • Reply
    Frank Vincent
    May 4, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    I was raised in Northeast Pennsylvania, to be specific Benton, and throughout elementary school we annually celebrated May Day with maypole dances. I recall one year, either ’65 or ’66 (?), we had a snow squall pass through the area and we were shivering in our Buster Brown shorts and tee-shirt outfits… Haaa… Mother-natures joke was on us!!
    Thanks for the trip back through memory-lane!!!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2019 at 11:26 am

    I’ve never seen a maypole dance but I’d sure like to.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    May 2, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    As several of the other readers mentioned, we used to have a May Day Celebration at our school. We looked forward to it all year long because in addition to the festivities, there was little schoolwork done on that day. The high school had a May Queen and Court. Each grade of high school was represented on the court, sort of like Homecoming is today. All of the court were dressed up, and the girls wore pastel colored formal dresses. If I remember correctly, the 7th grade always wound the Maypole. Each girl’s dress was the same color as her ribbon. All of the grades had learned folk dances and performed before the King, Queen and their court. I don’t remember a single rainy day on May 1st, when I was in school, though there probably was one or more. All of my memories of this celebration are filled with music, beautiful Spring colors, and happy children.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 2, 2019 at 11:09 am

    May is the month you start going barefooted and stop eating squirrel and rabbit (May is the first month that don’t have an R in it.)

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 2, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Here’s a link to a maypole dance photo from over a century ago – on the square in Bryson City:

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    May 2, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I have pictures of my son winding the maypole at a downtown celebration here in middle TN many years ago. Such a sweet memory! Hope you have a wonderful season.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 2, 2019 at 8:51 am

    My Mama was born on Mother’s Day. The year it fell on May 12th. was the year she was born. Although I never knew her when she could run and play with my older brothers, she was paralyzed in her left side shortly after I was born. She could walk to Church, and was the most determined I have ever known. I miss them something awful, and they both have been gone since the early 80’s. …Ken

  • Reply
    May 2, 2019 at 8:43 am

    May is the busiest month of the year for me. It was my mom’s birthday that occasionally fell on Mother’s Day. My oldest and youngest grandchildren celebrate birthdays in May. I travel out of town for several days to decorate graves on Memorial Day. After I get my garden planted, there is barely any time left to go fishing.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    May 2, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Happy Spring. The maypole dance is a great memory. I too wonder why it was discontinued at our school. How glorious is Spring.

  • Reply
    Susan Jones
    May 2, 2019 at 6:39 am

    Tipper, the lyrics to that Maypole Dance tune are so sweet…thanks for passing that along!
    I hope you all have a wonderful spring. The dogwoods are about gone here, but the azaleas are still gorgeous and the bridal wreath is prettier than I’ve ever seen it. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    May 2, 2019 at 6:37 am

    Our schools used to have a Maypoe dance when I was just starting school. Never heard why they stopped. I do know we all looked forward to it and were very disappointed

  • Reply
    May 2, 2019 at 5:28 am

    I love the month of May. My Mothers Birthday is in May, what a beautiful month to be born in, and also we are over the hill for Tornado season here, it’s known here for years if you can get past April then your chances are pretty good for most of the year, not saying it still couldn’t happen, but odds are not as favorable.

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