I have a theory about Cinco de Mayo.  I believe its popularity is partly due to its proximity to May 1, the spring cross-quarter day.

Cross quarter days mark the half-way points between solstices and equinoxes, which are also the events which mark our sun-based seasons: winter begins about December 21, on the winter solstice, spring on the equinox in March, and so on.  I’ve made a clumsy sketch of this.

The cross-quarter days, October 31, February 2, May 1 and August 1, midpoints in the sun’s move from equal day/night to longest or shortest day, to equal day/night again, have been celebrated since ancient times.  For some these were the beginnings of seasons, for others a time to move cattle or start crops, for still others a time of purification.

Given the contemporary enthusiasm for Halloween, I’m surprised that I didn’t make the connection for Cinco de Mayo sooner.  Halloween is a multiply corrupted holiday, having begun as Samhain in its Celtic manifestation, and been converted to “All Hallows Eve” by the Christian church, which cannily placed its festivals on traditional dates whenever possible.  Current celebrations ignore both the connection to All Saints Day and the purification and preparation for winter qualities of earlier usage.

The original May Day (Beltane to current Wiccans) was the beginning of summer.  People celebrated fertility with flowers and Maypole, and for herders it included moving herds to their summer pasture.

While Christians have often fretted over confusion with ancient practices, freethinkers should see no problem with celebrating the cycle of the year.  Though we may have no crops to plant or cattle to move, we are still made of the stuff of earth and should be aware of its turning.

But if you missed May 1, enjoy Cinco de Mayo, a festival built on a small battle victory, which happened to fall at a time when our bodies’ link to the earth tells us it’s a time to celebrate.

Advertisements