Mayday has long been celebrated as the real beginning of spring.
Hope is rekindled by nature’s rebirth, kicking off the New Seasonal Year, which officially starts with the vernal equinox. In ancient times it was, but Julius Caesar revised the calendar, establishing January as the beginning of the year, pushing March to the third month, confusing us all to this day.
Spring sets a gentle mood, both joyous and mild laying the ground for budding blooms and flowering romances, when “a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love”.
How can stormy, windy, cloudy March inspire love?
April follows, “cold with dropping rain”, unstable, unreliable crazy April, leaves us wondering like April’s fools.
“Then came fair May, the fairest maid on ground/ Deck’d all with dainties of the season’s pride.”
It is the month wherein nature has her fill of mirth and senses are filled with delights. If you were to choose a month of love would it not be May, more predictable in the weather front with warm temperatures; flowers, shrubs and trees all in bloom? “Spring is bustin’ out all over,” wherever you live.
The first of May, renamed Mayday signals spring is officially here and that is more appropriate for when young or old men (and women) turn their thoughts to love.
Shakespeare got it right: “Love, whose month is ever May.” Before him, Chaucer and other poets chose May as the month of love, yet the world celebrates Valentine’s Day, 14 February, right smack in mid-winter as Lover’s Day. Even Egypt’s own choice of 3 November is ridiculous. Both February and November are dull and dreary months signifying nothing.
In May, the sweetness of the air refreshes every spirit. Lusty hearts begin to blossom like the flowers in the garden and the green grass in the fields. The days are long and there is a sense of urgency in nature as well as man.
It is time for rejoicing the earth, the regeneration of life, when hearts and bodies are ready for love.
The Czechs refuse to celebrate Valentine’s Day, an artificial date intended to convert pagan Romans to Catholicism by digging up the name of a martyred bishop who was clubbed and executed on this day for being “a friend to lovers”. Instead, they strictly stick to May and rightly so. Why not join them?
While love should be celebrated every day, choose May as lovers’ month. In the Czech Republic as well as Slovenia they have certain romantic traditions they adhere to in their month of love. Kissing under a blossoming cherry tree is a must. If you do not, goes the myth, the lady who is not kissed will wither the following year. Why not the man as well?
Kissing under any tree is the height of romance.
Love is known as the strongest phenomenon in the world and the only thing that has the power to break any spell or curse. We should never stop believing in the magical power of love, yet do we really understand it?
Can we fathom love’s ultimate causes; its rise and fall, its raison d’etre?
It is impossible not to respond to the feeling that breathes through every living creature.
Blinding us to reality, romantic love becomes the height of our unconsciousness, buoyed by hope and optimism, induced by nature’s anaesthesia.
In ancient mythology, philosophy, and literature it has been classically described as “bittersweet” and “dolorous”, leaving the lover “trapped” and “possessed”. It sounds close to the truth as separation from the loved one brings about “pain” and “sickness”.
Science entered the realm of love. How do you explain the neurochemical formula that defines human relationships? The results were surprising. For a start, they discovered that a relatively small area of the brain is active in love. Did we need science to tell us we do not love with our brain?
“The face that launched 1,000 ships” did so through such a limited cortex.
Another scientific surprise is that the brain areas active in love resembled more those who snorted cocaine and not those who experienced intense emotions. Therefore, the scientific conclusion is that “we are addicted to love, literally.”
Lustful sex is similar to the state induced by opiates, a heady mix of chemical changes increasing oxytocin, vasopressin and endogenous opioids, the latter being the body’s natural equivalent to heroine. Did we need to know that?
It serves many functions; relaxing the body, inducing pleasure, satiety, and bonding.
Romantic love is different. A refinement of mere lust, it allows us to hone in on a particular mate with intensity, exhilaration, and obsession.
According to famed anthropologist Helen Fisher, behavioural patterns of those in love is similar to cases of obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
Once romantic love begins in earnest it is one of the strongest drives on earth.
“It seems to be more powerful than hunger,” writes Harville Hendrix, PhD, in his book Keeping the Love You Find.
Falling in love is easy, especially in the merry, merry month of May, keeping it is another story.
Let us first find love.
“May might be the closest we get to Paradise here on Earth,” says Haitian poet Hebert Logerie, “the month of May exists so we can love.”
We have had our fill of pandemics, wars, economic crises and gender confusion.
Pleasures await us, savour and celebrate.
“The Twilit May, the time of Love / Meltingly calls the turtle dove.”
Karel Hynek Macha (1810-1836)
* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly