Celebrate the gorgeous month of May! The Sun is warming, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the garden is growing. See what fun and interesting days May has to offer—from holidays to history to advice.
The glittering leaves of the rhododendrons
Balance and vibrate in the cool air;
While in the sky above them
White clouds chase each other.
—John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950)
May is named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. Learn more about the origins of the months’ names.
- May 1 is May Day. Mark the return of spring by bringing in branches of forsythia, lilacs, or other flowering shrubs from your region.
- In Hawaii, May 1 is celebrated as Lei Day. Leis are garlands or wreaths that are often made with native Hawaiian flowers and leaves. Nowadays, they are given as a symbol of greeting, farewell, affection, celebration, or honor, in the spirit of aloha. Lei Day originated in 1927, when poet Don Blanding proposed a holiday to recognize the lei’s role in Hawaiian culture. Writer Grace Tower Warren suggested May 1 for the date because it coincided with May Day, a celebration also linked to flowers. She coined the phrase, “May Day is Lei Day.” The first Lei Day observance occurred on May 1, 1928. The following year, it was made an official holiday in the territory. (Hawaii did not become a state until 1959.)
Today, Lei Day celebrations may include music, games, exhibits, and lei-making demonstrations and contests.
- Cinco de Mayo (“The Fifth of May”) celebrates the victory of the Mexicans over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862.
- Sunday, May 13, is Mother’s Day! Do you have something planned to show appreciation for your mother? Learn about the history of Mother’s Day.
- May 21 is Victoria Day in Canada. This holiday celebrates the birthday of Queen Victoria.
- Monday, May 28, is Memorial Day—a poignant reminder of the tenacity of life. It’s tradition to post the flag on this day; know your American flag rules.
Recipes for the Season
‘Tis the season of fresh, spring ingredients! Check out our list of Spring Recipes to get inspired.
Try some of these recipes that feature the first crops of the season:
- The wedding season is almost upon us. Find out wedding weather, sunset times, folklore, and more on our Wedding Planner page.
- Don’t get stressed! We’ve got Stress and Anxiety Remedies to help provide relief.
- Spring cleaning? See homemade cleaning remedies and other tips to help you around the home.
- See our free vegetable, herb, and fruit growing guides for tips on planting, growing, and harvesting your most popular crops.
- In May, enjoy new life by attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden! See our lists of plants that attract hummingbirds and plants that attract butterflies.
- Celebrate a new season of flowers by planting window boxes!
- Mid-spring is also the time when moles start coming out. See our page on how to control moles.
- Enjoy our weekly Gardening Blog for timely gardening advice!
May Folklore and Fun
A dry May and a leaking June
Make the farmer whistle a merry tune.
A snowstorm in May
Is worth a wagonload of hay.
Among the changing months, May stands confessed
The sweetest, and in fairest colors dressed!
–James Thomson, Scottish poet (1700–48)
- May’s full Moon, the Full Flower Moon, occurs on the 29th, at 10:20 A.M. (EDT). See the Full Moon for May Guide for facts and folklore.
- See the May 2018 Sky Watch to find out what to look for this month and the May 2018 Sky Map to navigate the night sky from your own backyard.
May Zodiac Signs
Taurus: April 21 to May 20
Gemini: May 21 to June 20
May Birth Symbols
May’s birth flower is the Hawthorn or Lily-of-the-Valley.
The hawthorn means hope, while the lily-of-the-valley symbolizes sweetness or the return of happiness. Learn more about May’s birth flowers.
May’s birthstone is the emerald. See birthstone meanings.
A few fun facts about emeralds:
- The emerald is a green type of beryl. Its color ranges from light to rich green; the more saturated hues are more valuable, especially if pure- or blue-green.
- Natural emeralds are flawed, with fractures or other materials mixed in, called inclusions, which may appear as needles, columns, or cubes of minerals or bubbles of gas or liquid. Sometimes oil or resin is added to fill fractures and improve appearance.
- Some of the best emeralds come from South American mines, although perhaps the oldest known came from Egypt. The emerald was a favorite gem of Cleopatra.
- The emerald symbolizes rebirth and fertility and was thought to grant foresight, cure various diseases, soothe nerves, improve memory, and ensure loyalty.
This Month in History
May 23: What’s Your Name?
On this day in 1707, Swedish botanist and naturalist Carl Linnaeus was born. One of his major achievements was the formal introduction of a system of classifying and naming organisms according to genus and species, called binomial nomenclature. The method uses Latin words (a language commonly used by scholars in his day). For example, humans are classified as Homo sapiens. Homo, meaning “man,” is the genus and sapiens, meaning “wise,” is the species. Several species may exist within one genus, but each species only has one scientific name. Scientists today use a modified version of Linnaeus’s system. Because the same naming convention is used throughout the world, it eliminates much confusion when discussing organisms.
Did You Know?
Carl Linnaeus originated the use of 0 (the symbol for Mars) to mean male and 1 (the symbol for Venus) to mean female.
May 26: Terrifying Twisters
On this day in 1917, tornadoes struck central Illinois, killing 101 people. Originally thought to be just one tornado that wreaked havoc along a 293-mile-long path, the outbreak was later determined to be four to eight tornadoes. One of them lasted 4 hours and followed a track 155 miles long (including the distance traveled while in the air). Mattoon and Charleston were especially hard hit by an F4 tornado (original Fujita scale). In Mattoon, almost 500 houses were destroyed.
According to newspaper reports:
- straw was driven ½ inch deep into a tree
- a flagpole with flag was blown four blocks and planted upright in the ground
- books and other items were carried 50 to 70 miles away
According to astronomers, what is a Julian day?
Answer: The term “Julian day” can be confusing because it has several meanings, including being a date on the Julian calendar. In astronomy, however, the Julian day (or Julian day number) is the number of days that have passed since the start of a Julian period. The Julian period is a year-numbering system developed by 16th-century French astronomer Joseph Justus Scaliger. He determined that the current Julian period began on January 1, 4713 B.C. of the Julian calendar; every 7,980 years, the count of years restarts.
For dating and comparing the timing of astronomical events and observations, John Herschel and other astronomers created a day-numbering system based on Scaliger’s Julian period. There are no months in a Julian day system; it simply counts the days, and fractions of days in decimals, since the period began. Julian day 0 occurred on January 1, 4713 B.C. The Julian day starts at noon Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time) so that nighttime astronomical events occur on one Julian day.
A Julian date includes the fraction of a Julian day. For example, on May 1, 2016 (Gregorian calendar date), at midnight (the start of the day on a common calendar) the Julian day number was 2457509, and the Julian date was 2457509.5. On May 1, 2016, at noon, the Julian day number changed to 2457510 and the Julian date to 2457510.0.