Who celebrated May Day – the Christianized pagan holiday practiced by the ancient Celts under the name Beltane? Yeah, no one. Maybe some Celts. Back in the day, the Celts took their Beltane revelling quite seriously, even going so far as tracing their family lineages matrilineally, since the first of May was celebrated with a huge orgy and the only way to know whose kid belonged to whom come next January was to ask the women who birthed them. Gotta love the swinging 70s B.C.
Contemporary May Day festivities, if practiced at all, are comparatively tame. Most involve dancing around a so-called May Pole hanging onto a string or something, which sounds like tetherball without the ball. Or “tetherball” at any underfunded school. So, basically, tetherball everywhere. If you happen to have a tetherball pole at home, happy May Day. Just try not to think too hard about playing with a ball tied to a pole versus, say, group sex – you might lose your taste for modernity.
Like everything else in my brain, I learned that May Day was tetherball on the Internet, but not without first confusing it with “mayday,” which is vastly more dramatic as it usually involves a plane crash or a sinking ship. Invented by a UK radio officer in 1923, it took a surprising four full years before Navy types decided to start using it too. Apparently, it finally occurred to them that It’s a helluva lot easier to yell “Mayday!” into a mike rather than telegraphing Morse code for S.O.S ( · · · – – – · · · ). These days it just looks like an emoticon for peeing.
I also learned that on May 1 in Hawaii, they celebrate Lei Day. I’m not going there, except to say that getting lei’d is probably more fun than tetherball.
If you missed May Day, there’s always Cinqo De Mayo, the fifth of May, which commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over French occupying forces at the Battle of Puebla circa 1862, the second year of the Franco-Mexican war. To those still eating “freedom fries,” the phrase “French occupying forces” might read as oxymoronic. To that I say, just be grateful they gave you another drinking holiday, you jingoist pig. All of puritanical America’s drinking holidays are imports, usually precipitated by occupiers or snakes (see St. Patrick’s Day).
In Mexico, Cinqo De Mayo is observed but not widely celebrated, at least not to the degree that the Belgian-Brazilian-owned multinational beverage corporation Anheuser-Busch InBev wants you to believe. Of course, you know this beery juggernaut better as the makers of BUD (the nickname is also their stock symbol – cute).
They’re in the midst of a $20.1 billion acquisition of the makers of Corona, known as the flagship brew of Cinqo De Mayo. This is thanks in large part to the efforts of ad agencies like Cramer-Krasselt, the Chicago-based firm behind Corona’s “find your beach” campaign. It’s also the only agency I know of with a trademarked slogan: “Make friends, not ads.™” So, is CK the kind of friend that holds your hair while you give up your guts? The last time I drunkenly croaked “I love you, man” to a CK, I got a restraining order from Calvin Klein.
This year, Cinqo de Mayo falls on a Sunday, so it stands to reason that workplace productivity will also fall this Seis De Mayo. Several years ago, the Centers for Disease Control famously reported that “Drinking too much, including binge drinking, cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006, or $1.90 a drink, from losses in productivity …” I find it ironic that the U.S. loses nearly two bucks a drink, since that’s more than what I’ve paid for some of the crap I’ve drank.
One Cinqo De Mayo survival tactic I’ve learned is to avoid tequila. Especially mezcal tequila – the brownish embalming fluid with the worm bottle. Come May 5, there’s always some jackass who drops some plastic on a round of tequila shots to stave off the gnawing sense of existential despair that defines his post-frat life. If he’s the kind of scumbag I’ve known, he’ll insist on mezcal tequila. Note, the worm acts like a “canary in the coal mine” to distillers: If the worm is alive and squirming, the tequila isn’t strong enough. If the worm is dead and squirming, the tequila is too strong.
Don’t drink it. Instead, call “Mayday! Mayday!” and get yourself a cab home ASAP. You’ll not only save your health and dignity, your tetherball game will be greatly improved.