May Day at Buffalo Springs Herb Farm

| April/May 2003

  • Pat Crocker
  • Buffalo Springs’ 13 display gardens are designed to flow from one “room” to the next.
    Pat Crocker

For many of the 6,000 annual visitors to Buffalo Springs Herb Farm near Raphine, Virginia, May Day is the most memorable event. It’s a huge event for the whole community held annually on the first Saturday in May. Don Haynie, co-owner of Buffalo Springs Herb Farm, says May Day is a celebration of the re-awakening of life in the garden.

“It’s a party that has its roots in the charm, wonder and magic of ancient spring traditions,” he says.

May Day originated with the spring fertility festivals of ancient Egypt and India and became popular in England during the Roman occupation (about a.d. 42). Haynie says, “the ties to antiquity that are evident in May Day celebrations still give depth and richness to people’s lives today.”

May Day, with its Celtic overtones of Beltaine (pronounced Bee-YAWL-tinnuh), which translates literally to “Bel’s fire,” is one of two fire festivals in the Celtic year. To the Celts, it marked the beginning of summer (the light half of the Celtic calendar) and is a celebration of the return of life and fertility to the world. The “otherworldly,” mystic feeling often attributed to Beltaine is due in part because it is an in-between period, a time when the sun appears to stand still and humans prepare for planting and harvesting.

Buffalo Springs is the place to be if you are ready and anxious to step into the garden. Haynie devotes time to answering garden questions and focuses his seminars on new herbs and new ideas for herb gardens as his contribution to the growing season ahead.

For the day-long May Day festival at the herb farm, Haynie draws on the centuries-old, almost-universal symbol of May festivities throughout Europe— the May Pole. A brightly decorated May Pole is erected close to the 1890 valley bank barn and used as the focal point for the day’s celebrations. As it has for eons, the May Pole connects earth and sky, triggering the renewal of the growing season and spawning fertility dances. The farm bell summons visitors and participants to gather at noon for the crowning of the May Queen, the featured entertainment and the dance around the May Pole at Buffalo Springs.

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