May 1st is a holiday in Italy: it’s Labor Day. In many parts of Tuscany, May 1st is also the day of “Il Maggio“.
Traditionally, on the night between April 30th and May 1st, the village men would walk throughout the village stopping under the windows of unmarried girls to sing the traditional canti del maggio (May chants) a cappella. The songs would always include the name of the girls and of some young man who was supposedly courting them. They would also leave some laurel branches by the girl’s door as a sign that in that house there was a “giovane da dar per moglie” (literally, a young woman to be given as a bride) and as a wish for good luck. Laurel in our dialect is also known as “maggio“, the same word we use for the month of May.
The anxious parents of the single girls would leave eggs and wine outside their doors to thank the singers, also known as “maggiaioli“.
Now, the village men sing their songs during the day of May 1st. The villagers organize a little festival with a few tables with traditional sweets and drinks for the people who want to gather and listen to the chants. It’s still a beautiful tradition though. Too bad they don’t come singing for me anymore now that I’m a married woman!
Examples of Canti di Maggio can be found here.
And here is a video of some Maggiaioli of the Maremma. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to record the singing in the village today. Too bad!
My friend Rebecca has written a post about Cantamaggio in Assisi, Umbria. She runs the beautiful Brigolante Guest Apartments.