Celebration of Spring: Floralia

Although the ancient Roman holiday of Floralia began in April, the Roman month of the love goddess Venus, it was really an ancient May Day celebration. The holiday for Flora (as officially determined by Julius Caesar when he fixed the Roman calendar) ran from April 28 to May 3.
Flora is the Roman goddess of flowers, gardens and spring. Flora embodies the beauty and riotous abundance of nature. She is associated not only with the flowering plants but also with the bloom of youth and its pleasures. Symbolically, this flowering pertains to the human spirit too, one that can appreciate beauty in the body without necessarily making it into a sex object.
Romans celebrated Floralia with the set of games and theatrical presentations known as the Ludi Florales.  Roman public games (ludi) were financed by minor public magistrates known as aediles. The curule aediles produced the Ludi Florales. The ludi could be very expensive for the aediles, which used the games as a socially accepted way of winning the affection and votes of the people. In this way, the aediles hoped to ensure victory in future elections for higher office after they had finished their year as aediles.
By the Empire; the festival had grown seven days, and included chariot-races and theatrical performances, some of which were notoriously bawdy. It was given over to merriment and celebrations of an amorous nature, much like that northern flower-and-sex festival Beltane whose date neatly coincides. Prostitutes considered it their own special time, and the Floralia gained a reputation as being more licentious and abandoned than the Saturnalia of December.Flora, Roman Goddess of flowers, is honored during these celebrations with the wearing of a crown of flowers in the hair. After the theatrical performances, the celebration continued in the Circus Maximus, where animals were set free and beans scattered to insure fertility.
It was thought that if the pagans were allowed to keep some of their holidays and simply twist them slightly it would make the conversion easier to observe that the winter was ending, and to celebrate both Flora and Maia along with other fertility Goddesses on May Day, May 1st every year as a symbol and hope that the coming months would bring fertility and prosperity.


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