Maypole Dancing is often associated with dancing the Morris and especially with the Morris Dances of the Cotswolds (Oxfordshire and adjacent counties) although this may be just because both activities involve dancing and having a good time! Morris dancers often deck themselves out with ribbons and wave handkerchieves that catch the breeze and exaggerate their movements. They wear bells around their legs which ring in time with the music. The musical instruments of the Morris and even the tunes are often borrowed to make the Maypole Dance music. Learn more about Morris Dancing >>
You can add to the Maypole Dancing experience by providing lengths of ribbon that the dancers can use to decorate their clothing and bells tied on lengths of string but loose enough to ring freely to tie below the dancers' knees or at the ankles.
JACK IN THE GREEN
It is thought that this tradition dates back to the 16th Century and the making of garlands out of leaves, often for the Mayday celebrations. Eventually, the decorations became so large that they became the focus of the activity, covering the wearer completely. Perhaps the total disguise was why it seems that the character of the Jack in the Green later became associated with rowdiness and mischief.
You can make a Jack in the Green outfit by creating a conical shaped structure of wire mesh and then attaching a broom handle to the point and decorating the outside of the mesh with short leafy branches. A strong person can get underneath the structure and hold it up by means of the broom handle. They can then dance in time with the maypole music or perhaps run around, scaring all those who dare to get in their way.
Another activity often happening at the same time as Maypole Dancing is the tradition of local community processions. The picture shows the Lichfield (Greenhill) Bower Procession, usually held in the later part of May. In this case, the dancers, who are formed up in two columns, crossing over to swap positions in time with the music, carry "bowers". These are branches of fresh birch, ash or oak which are waved in circles as the dance progresses.