Festival – San Francisco

--Informant Info--
Nationality: English
Age: 60
Occupation: Teacher
Residence: Long Beach, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2008
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

May Day Festival

Every May Day there is a festival at Sigmund Stern’s Grove in San Francisco. There were large fields and groves of trees where people would hang out and watch the festivities.  The people involved in the festival were dressed up in fancy dress.  The young girls involved would dance around the may pole.

Charlene grew up in the city of San Francisco.  Every May Day she and her family would go to Sigmund Stern’s Grove to watch the festival.  She was very young when they did this, but she does not remember ever participating in the festivities, only watching them.

May Day is a celebration of the end of winter in the northern hemisphere.  It also represents fertility and new life which is generally synonymous with that time of year.  May Day has different backgrounds and is celebrated differently in different cultures.  Charlene is of English decent, and the May Day festival her family used to attend was most similar to the May Day celebrated in England.  It is interesting that this particular May Day celebration was more of a performance for people to watch rather than a festival for people to become involved in.  It is also interesting that the people who came to watch at the time when Charlene went were not tourists from out of town, but were residents of San Francisco.

The festival is themed around spring and new life.  The fact that this particular festival was held in a grove of trees and large fields coincides well with that concept.  The may pole represents the idea of new life and fertility.  The pole can be considered a phallic symbol.  The only girls who are allowed to dance around it are those who are young and fertile.  Charlene remembered best all of the pretty dresses the girls used to wear.  People usually dress up for any sort of celebration, but also this could represent the girls trying to look their best in order to attract a partner and create new life.

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