Garlands in Oxfordshire
By Victorian times, hostility to May garlands had evaporated. In Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson provides a vivid decription of a garland made by the schoolchildren of
Juniper Hill on the border between Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, in the 1880s. The wooden frame was 4 feet tall, bell-shaped and smothered with primroses, violets, cowslips, wallflowers, oxlips and currant flowers. A china doll, known as ‘the lady’
hung in the centre of the garland.
May garlands might be hoisted on a long staff or broom handle to be paraded by children about the town or village, one of them carrying a money box. The children had chants. In Thame the words ran:
to see my garland/Because it's the First of May
Give me a penny/Then I will go away.
The money received was usually divided up between the children, and spent on sweets.
Among the variants in customs, a Studley woman recalls, 'For May
Day at Studley we made garlands of spring flowers by tying on and weaving the stems of flowers into an old bicycle wheel, so that the wheel was completely covered. If we had no wheel we made a star shape with crossed sticks. The flowers were put on at the
very last minute to keep the garland fresh looking. We used white bells, bluebells, polyanthus, wallflowers etc.'
A Bicester woman recalls that in her childhood, garlands were improvised by decorating hula hoops.