Second of May, Shoelace Day.

I’m reposting an older blog post from 2008 that gets me a lot of email this time of year.  Mostly from people who grew up in New Jersey and are trying to find the origins of this First of May Petticoat Day custom.  Maybe when I retire, I’ll apply for a research grant.

First of May Petticoat Day

Was this a strange New Jersey custom? Or an old-country custom that founds its way to the East Coast? When I was a kid in the 60’s (just before love peace and brown rice) there were several customs tied to May Day. The boys mostly, but also girls would shout “First of May, Petticoat Day” and flip up the edge of a girl’s uniform skirt to show her slip. Some years I would wear shorts under my uniform so that I didn’t have on a petticoat. (a doofus even then) Then there was crowning Mary (as in the Blessed Virgin Mary) Queen of the May. I imagine this came from some attempt to christianize a pagan ritual. I was always jealous of the girl that was chosen to crown Mary. She got to wear a pretty dress and a wreath of flowers. I was never chosen for such things, because I was not small and cute, but tall and awkward. The term my grandmother would use was ‘hoyden’ — not who you want traipsing down the aisle with wreaths and flowers

Second of May was Shoelace Day, you shouted that and grabbed someone’s shoelace to untie it. These days the little un’s all seem to have velcro. (Third of May, Velcro Day?)

And since we all love pictures, here’s a first of May flower shot of my trillium.Trillium are open


4 responses to “Second of May, Shoelace Day.

  1. Flowers!!!! Yay! (AND SUNSHINE.)
    I don’t have any shoes with shoelaces. Of course, I don’t have any shoes with velcro, either, so. 🙂

  2. Gretchen (aka stashdragon)

    Only in New Jersey, maybe? Here in California in the same era, the only odd clothing-related ritual we grade-schoolers practiced was to wear green on St. Patrick’s day – otherwise you’d be pinched. The best move of all, however, was to wear just an inconspicuous bit of green to trap someone else into pinching you without warrant, so to speak. Then you revealed your green and claimed your right to pinch the unjustified pincher TEN times in retribution!

  3. Ok some rituals are maybe best left in the past–like having to wear petticoats! (were those what we used to call poofy slips?). I lived in Rhode Island from ages 5-7, we had maypole dances and had to wear felt beanies for May Day. I feel like boys always tried to flip up our dresses no matter what time of year. How ridiculous to make girls wear dresses to school!

  4. In rural Minnesota in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up there, the May Day tradition was May baskets. We would make little baskets out of construction paper, fill them with candy, then have a parent drive us around to our friends’ houses where we would hang them on the doorknob, knock (no doorbells then), then run away when they answered the door.

    Apparently May baskets had gone out of fashion decades earlier in non-rural parts of the US.

    Our woods are full of trilliums, but they haven’t started blooming yet. Yesterday I saw hepaticas, though.

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