By Jim Melwert
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As the sun came up on the first day of May, several people gathered in Fairmount Park to celebrate – and to continue an ancient tradition.
It’s a May Day celebration like you’d see in a movie set in medieval England. With live music, dancers in bright colors with bells on their knees, almost like sleigh bells, waving handkerchiefs or clashing sticks together.
Jan Alter with the Kingsessing Morris Men says it’s a traditional celebration to begin the planting season:
“The bells wake the ground, the handkerchiefs bring down the rays of sun, and the sticks chase away the evil spirits of winter.”
The tradition dates back to before Christianity settled in the rural areas of England, Gary Undercuffler explains:
“Shakespeare refered to it as an ancient tradition, so that gives you a clue it goes way way back, like a Pagan ritual dance to bring good luck to the farmers in the spring.”
The tradition here in Philadelphia dates back over 30 years.