20 Little-Known Facts About May

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From historical events to unique traditions, May brings a mix of celebrations and memorable moments. It’s a time when flowers bloom and days get longer, but there’s much more to this month than just springtime charm. 

Let’s explore some fascinating facts about May and discover why May is such a special part of the year!

1) No US Presidents Died in May

Interestingly, every other month has seen the death of at least one US president, but never in May​​​​. 

The curious fact that no U.S. presidents have died in the month of May stands out as a unique historical anomaly. With a total of 46 presidents as of 2023, the United States has seen its fair share of presidential passing.

Each of these passings has occurred in months other than May, spread across various times of the year. This pattern—or lack thereof—does not seem to follow any specific logic or reason, appearing more as a coincidence in the annals of U.S. presidential history.

Interestingly, statistically, every month would likely experience at least one presidential death purely by chance, given the number of presidents and the span of years involved.

However, May has so far remained an exception to this trend, making it a unique month in the context of U.S. presidential history.

2) Eurovision Song Contest

The Eurovision Song Contest, celebrated annually in May, has been a pivotal event in international music since 1956. This event transcends just a competition; it is a cultural phenomenon that brings together nations across Europe and beyond through the power of music.

Eurovision has become famous for its eclectic mix of musical styles, flamboyant performances, and the spirit of unity and diversity it promotes among participating countries.

One of the most notable successes of Eurovision is the rise of the Swedish pop group ABBA, who won the contest in 1974 with their hit “Waterloo.”

This victory was not only a milestone for ABBA, catapulting them to international stardom, but it also marked a defining moment in the contest’s history.

Since then, Eurovision has continued to be a platform for launching the careers of many artists, contributing significantly to the global music scene.

3) Star Wars Day

Star Wars Day, observed annually on May 4th, has become an iconic date for fans of the legendary Star Wars franchise. The date was chosen for its pun on the famous phrase from the movies, “May the Force be with you,” which phonetically echoes “May the Fourth.”

This unofficial holiday celebrates the rich legacy and cultural impact of the Star Wars series, which began with the release of the original film in 1977.

The day is marked by fans around the globe in various ways, including movie marathons, themed parties, dressing up as favorite characters, and engaging in discussions and trivia about the Star Wars universe.

It has also been embraced by Lucasfilm and Disney, with special events, merchandise releases, and promotions often coinciding with the date.

4) Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower is an annual celestial event, observable from about April 19 to May 28. It is renowned for its speed and brightness, with meteors traveling at about 66 kilometers per second and often leaving glowing “trains” (ionized gas trails that last for a few seconds to minutes) in the night sky.

This meteor shower is best viewed just before dawn, offering an impressive display for stargazers.

The Eta Aquariids are associated with Halley’s Comet. As Earth passes through the debris left behind by this famous comet, the bits of comet dust and particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, creating the meteor shower.

The shower gets its name from its apparent radiant point in the constellation Aquarius, near one of its brightest stars, Eta Aquarii.

5) Empire State Building Opening

The Empire State Building, a defining symbol of New York City and an architectural marvel, officially opened its doors on May 1, 1931.

Designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon and constructed in just over a year, this building was a remarkable feat of engineering and labor, especially considering the constraints of the Great Depression era.

Standing at 1,454 feet tall, including its antenna, it held the title of the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years until the North Tower of the World Trade Center was completed in 1970.

6) Maypole Celebrations

Maypole celebrations are a charming and colorful tradition rooted in European folklore, dating back to at least 1350 AD. Central to this tradition is the maypole, a tall wooden pole, which is festively adorned with flowers, ribbons, and sometimes greenery, symbolizing the vitality and renewal of spring.

The most prominent aspect of maypole celebrations involves dances, where participants, often children or young adults, hold onto the ribbons attached to the top of the pole and dance around it.

These dances can involve intricate patterns as dancers weave in and out, braiding the ribbons together and then unwinding them in a symbolic representation of the weaving of the community and the cycle of the seasons.

Historically, the maypole was a focal point of village festivities during May Day celebrations, embodying the joy and fertility associated with the onset of spring.

Different regions across Europe have unique variations of this tradition, which remains a popular and picturesque aspect of cultural celebrations, particularly in rural areas.

7) Unique Calendar Feature

The unique calendar feature regarding the month of May is quite intriguing. In any given year, May is the only month that begins and ends on the same day of the week as no other month.

This characteristic results from how the Gregorian calendar is structured, coupled with the specific number of days in each month and the pattern of leap years.

This distinct trait adds a special quirk to May, setting it apart in the annual calendar cycle. The phenomenon occurs because the Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely used civil calendar today, follows a 400-year cycle that is carefully designed to keep the calendar year synchronized with the solar year.

Within this cycle, the distribution of days in each month and the leap year pattern result in May’s unique placement where its start and end days of the week do not align with those of any other month in the same year.

8) May Day

May Day, celebrated on May 1st, is a day with a rich tapestry of history and significance, blending ancient traditions with modern observances. Historically, May Day has its roots in ancient spring festivals, such as the Roman Floralia and the Celtic Beltane.

These festivals were typically marked with flowers, dancing, and rituals to celebrate fertility and the renewal of the Earth after winter.

In a more contemporary context, May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day, a day of political demonstrations and celebrations organized by communists, anarchists, socialists, and labor movements.

This aspect of May Day began in the late 19th century, particularly following the Haymarket Riots in Chicago in 1886, which was a pivotal event in the labor movement advocating for workers’ rights, including the establishment of the eight-hour workday.

9) The May Queen

The May Queen is a symbolic figure deeply rooted in the traditions of May Day, representing the themes of spring, fertility, and beauty. This emblematic character is often envisioned as a young woman adorned with spring flowers, symbolizing the season’s purity, youth, and vitality.

The crowning of the May Queen is a central feature of many May Day celebrations, particularly in European cultures.

In these festivities, the May Queen is typically selected from the community and is often seen as a personification of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, or as a representation of the traditional spirit of spring.

Her crowning often involves a procession and a ceremonial placing of a floral wreath or garland upon her head.

Accompanied by music, dancing, and sometimes theatrical performances, the May Queen presides over the May Day celebrations, embodying the joy and renewal associated with the onset of spring.

10) Victory in Europe Day

Victory in Europe Day, commonly known as VE Day, is commemorated on May 8th and marks a significant moment in world history—the end of World War II in Europe.

This day in 1945 signified the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces, effectively bringing an end to the European conflict of the war.

Celebrated in various European countries, VE Day is a time of remembrance and reflection on the immense sacrifices made during the war.

It is often marked by various ceremonies and events, including parades, speeches, and moments of silence, honoring those who lost their lives during the conflict.

VE Day is a poignant reminder of the struggle for freedom and the triumph of peace over tyranny in countries like France, the United Kingdom, and Poland.

11) The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby, known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” is a prestigious horse race held annually on the first Saturday in May.

This event, inaugurated in 1875, is the oldest continuous sporting event in the United States and forms the first leg of the American Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

Taking place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the Derby is renowned for its rich traditions, including the lavish hats worn by attendees, the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” during the pre-race post parade, and the mint julep, the traditional beverage of the race.

The race features three-year-old thoroughbreds competing over a distance of 1.25 miles (2 km).

12) Indianapolis 500

The Indianapolis 500, often called the “Indy 500“, is one of the most prestigious events in the world of auto racing, held annually on Memorial Day weekend in May. This event takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.

Known for its rich history and tradition, the Indy 500 is a 500-mile race, and it is one of the three most significant motor racing events globally, commonly known as the “Triple Crown of Motorsport.”

The race is conducted over 200 laps around a 2.5-mile oval circuit and is renowned for its high speeds and close competition. First held in 1911, the Indy 500 has become deeply embedded in American culture, attracting fans from all over the world.

Traditions of the event include the performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” the release of balloons before the race starts, and the victory lap of the winning driver drinking milk, a custom since 1936.

13) Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on May 5th, is a holiday that has gained significant popularity in the United States, particularly as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.

The date commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday but is observed with various festivities, including parades, music, folkloric dancing, and traditional foods.

A notable aspect of the celebration is the significant consumption of beer, with spending exceeding $600 million. This reflects the holiday’s commercialization and its widespread acceptance as a part of American cultural celebrations.

14) Memorial Day

Memorial Day in the United States is a federal holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May. It is a day of remembrance and honor for the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military.

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

This day is marked by various activities and traditions across the country. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials to pay their respects to fallen soldiers, often decorating graves with flowers and flags.

Memorial Day is also known for its parades, featuring both active military personnel and veterans of past wars.

15) Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, observed in May, is a significant period in the United States dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the contributions, culture, history, and achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

This commemoration was officially designated in May to mark two important historical events: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, largely built by Chinese immigrants.

Throughout this month, various activities and events are organized across the country, including educational programs, cultural exhibitions, public performances, and community gatherings.

16) National Foster Care Month

National Foster Care Month, observed annually in May, is a crucial time designated for raising awareness about the needs and well-being of children in foster care.

This month-long observance focuses on understanding the challenges faced by children in the foster care system and acknowledges the dedication of those who contribute to enhancing their lives, including foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, child welfare professionals, and policymakers.

During National Foster Care Month, various organizations and communities engage in activities aimed at supporting and celebrating foster families, while also driving efforts to increase public awareness about the foster care system.

The goal is to encourage more individuals and families to get involved, whether through fostering, adoption, or other forms of support.

17) Mental Health Awareness Month: 

Mental Health Awareness Month, observed each year in May, plays a critical role in highlighting the importance of mental health and aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

This month is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health conditions and advocating for strategies to support mental well-being.

Throughout the month, various organizations, health professionals, and communities engage in activities to educate the public about mental health.

This includes providing information on recognizing mental health problems, promoting effective strategies for maintaining mental well-being, and encouraging people to seek help when needed.

Mental Health Awareness Month also emphasizes the importance of understanding mental health as an integral part of overall health. It’s a time to acknowledge the challenges faced by individuals with mental health conditions and to advocate for policies and practices that support mental health care access and treatment.

18) National Walking Month in the UK

National Walking Month, observed in May across the United Kingdom, is an initiative designed to encourage people of all ages to walk more and embrace the numerous health benefits associated with regular walking.

This month-long campaign emphasizes the importance of physical activity and aims to make walking a natural choice for everyday local journeys.

Organized by Living Streets, a UK charity dedicated to everyday walking, National Walking Month features a variety of events and challenges to motivate individuals and communities to walk more.

These include campaigns like the #Try20, which encourages people to add at least 20 minutes of walking to their daily routine. The initiative highlights how walking can improve physical health, mental well-being, and facilitate social connections.

It also addresses the barriers that might prevent people from walking, such as safety concerns or unfavorable weather conditions, and offers solutions to overcome them.

19) Famous Birthdays

In May, we celebrate the birthdays of several iconic personalities who have significantly contributed to culture and history. Cher, born on May 20th, is a multi-talented artist known for her distinctive singing voice, trendsetting fashion, and versatile acting skills. Her career spans over six decades, encompassing music, television, and film, and she is often referred to as the “Goddess of Pop.”

Bob Dylan, born on May 24th, is a monumental figure in music, renowned for his profound and poetic lyrics. His work, particularly from the 1960s, became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. Dylan’s influence on contemporary music culture is immense, earning him accolades like the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Queen Victoria was a significant historical figure born on May 24th, 1819. Her reign, known as the Victorian era, was marked by industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military changes in the United Kingdom, and her influence extended across the British Empire. Her birthday also became celebrated as the Empress of India, marking her as a pivotal figure in British history.

20) Weather Patterns

In May, the weather patterns in the United States and the United Kingdom present a notable contrast in average temperatures, reflecting the diverse climatic conditions of these regions.

In the US, the average temperature during May is approximately 66°F (19°C). This period typically marks the transition from spring to summer, with many areas experiencing a significant increase in warmth and daylight.

In contrast, the UK experiences cooler average temperatures around 57°F (14°C) in May. This difference is partly due to the UK’s geographical location and maritime climate, which generally results in milder temperatures.

May in the UK is characterized by the late spring season, where days are longer and brighter, but the temperatures are not as high as in many parts of the US.

This month often sees a mix of sunny days interspersed with spring showers, contributing to the lush greenery typical of the British countryside at this time of year.