May Day

May 1, 6:00 a.m., Thornden Park Water Tower Hill

May Day Cake

A Syracuse Tradition Since 1981

Every year since 1985, the Bassett Street Hounds have joined Thornden Morris and other local morris teams in presenting a May Day dawn celebration atop Water Tower Hill in Thornden Park. (See directions to the park)

Although we never be sure of the details of what will happen, there are certain things you can count on:

  • We will dance up the sun. Festivities start at dawn, which on May 1 is 6:00 a.m. Our audience has shown up, often without any advance warning or publicity, in large numbers. From 100-200 people show up every year in all kinds of weather. Amazing!
  • There will be a processional dance performed by all of the morris dancers to start things off. A grand entrance.
  • The morris dancers will dance! Over and over. For an hour. We generally count on four ritual dance teams to perform, Thornden Morris, Ribbonsteel Rapper, Heartwood Morris, and the Hounds, so that means two dances per team.
  • We will perform the Mumming Play in which the themes of life and death, winter and renewal will be celebrated. Much hilarity for all.
  • Urchins will go among you begging money for beer. In return, we will give you the morris cake and branches of May with promises/threats of fertility and/or good luck. It's hooey but we can't seem to stop ourselves.
  • We will sing a May song or two; very likely the Furry Day Carol.
  • We end things up leading the audience in the Maypole dance. We use the Playford tune known as Sellenger's Round for the dance.

May Day Celebrations Elsewhere

If you can't make it to May Day in Syracuse, Ric Goldman's May Day Morris provides a listing of celebrations around the country.