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Patty Craig: A Slice of Time

The month of May is packed with tradition: May Day, Derby Day, Mother’s Day, primary election day, and Memorial Day. All of these cultural elements occur within four weeks.

The first day of May, May Day, has been observed as a holiday since ancient times. In medieval England, people celebrated spring by going out into the country or woods and gathering greenery and flowers, or "bringing in the may." Another English tradition was the maypole. This pole would be hung with greenery and served as a central point for the festivities. Some towns had permanent maypoles that would stay up all year; others put up a new one each May. In the 19th century, people began to braid the maypole with ribbons by weaving in and out in the course of a dance.

On Saturday, May 5th, Louisville's Churchill Downs will run the 2012 Kentucky Derby – perhaps the most famous horse race in the United States. Since the early 1900's, the Derby has been held on the first Saturday in May. The Derby is a race for three-year-old horses and is one and a quarter miles (2 km). It has been called 'The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,' 'The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports,' and 'The Run for the Roses.'

Mother's Day will be celebrated on Sunday, May 13. This is a time to recognize and honor mothers and motherhood. Around Mother's Day, many of us will visit or call our mothers, and we may also honor them with gifts.

May 22 is Kentucky's primary election day (the first Tuesday after the third Monday in May). We will vote for the parties' presidential candidates. The polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Since the candidate field has narrowed, primary polls may see a low voter turnout this year.

The last Monday in May – Memorial Day, a federal holiday – commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military. For many, this long weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer. Memorial Day weekend is a time for visiting cemeteries as well as for picnics, barbecues, and sporting events.

May is a unique time, filled with traditions. As a child, I recited: "April showers bring May flowers." But, Edwin Way Teale may have been on target when he said, "All things seem possible in May." It certainly mirrors our rich cultural heritage.


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