May 1st is the first day of May. But it is more than that. I remeber in sixth grade, we dressed up and danced around a may pole at the elementary school I attended in San Diego. It was all about dancing around a pole with ribbons. It goes back to Beltane and pagan rites.
With the Roman invasions of Western Europe and Britain, much of the symbolism and rites of the Floralia and Beltane became entwined -- eventually becoming the holiday we now call May Day or Walpurgis. The custom of going 'a-maying', collecting flowers, greenery and the maypole early on the morning of May 1, survives virtually intact to this day. Same are the balefires in Britain, Germany, and other countries of Europe. The sexual aspect of the holiday, however, has become almost extinct in many countries. The festivities were viewed as sinful by some Christian leaders, and in 1644, the celebration was banned by the Puritan-controlled Parliament in Britain.
Druids and their successors raised the Beltane fires on hilltops throughout the British Isles on May Eve. These fires were lit in order to bring the sun’s light down to earth. In Scotland, every fire in the household was extinguished, and the great fires lit from the need-fire kindled three times by three men, using wood from nine sacred trees. When the wood burst into flames, it proclaimed the triumph of the light over the dark half of the year.
Then people thrust brands into the newly roaring flames and whirled them about their heads in imitation of the circling of the sun. As the sun rose at dawn, those who had stayed up to watch it might see it whirl three times upon the horizon before rising in all its summer glory.
Beltane was also considered one of the three "spirit-nights" of the year when the faeries could be seen. Stories talk that at dusk, one must twist a rowan sprig into a ring and look through it, so that you might see one of them, or more.
Veils between the mortal world and other worlds are claimed to be thin on this day (like All Hallow’s Eve), and it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve, the Fairy Queen tries to entice people away to the land of the Faeries. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you might see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of her horse's bells as she rides on her night ride. The legend also says if you hide your face, she will pass by, but if taking one glance at her may have her choose her to go with her. A Scottish ballad called Thomas the Rhymer, tells of this, in which Thomas chooses to go with the Queen and never seen afterwards.
According to old folklore, May is not a favorable time for marriages in the legal and permanent sense. References in the old books of this belief, say woe is to had by those who do marry during this month. One reason might be is May is the pagan handfasting month.