When the Gregorian calendar was adopted to replace the Julian calendar in 1752, and eleven days had to be dropped from the calendar, thus drawing all the dates forward by eleven days. This makes 12th May Old May Day, or Old Beltane, when the hawthorn truly flowers.
The children of the Dorset fishing village of Abbotsbury still ‘bring in the May’ on the old day. Carrying garlands made by a local woman, each one constructed over a frame and supported by a stout broomstick, they go about the village they go from door to door, and receive small gifts in return. Later, the garlands are laid at the base of the local war memorial.
At one time this was an important festival marking the beginning of the fishing season, when wreaths were blessed, carried down to the water and fastened to the bows of the fishing boats. After dark, the fishermen rowed out to sea and tossed the garlands to the waves with prayers for a safe and plentiful fishing season. It is tempting to see a carry-over from pagan times, when sacrificial offerings were made to the gods of the sea.