About the Song “Here We Come Gathering Nuts in May” and May Day
Common_hawthorn_flowers

Hawthorn (May) Flowers

Lawrence Silverman sent us this email about the song, “Nuts in May” with the note, “I grew up (a long time ago) in the depths of rural England when many old customs now forgotten were still observed. I don’t like to think of them being altogether forgotten. I’d be delighted to have this posted on your blog…”

About the children’s song, “Here we come gathering nuts in May” (lyrics below), it tells of things long forgotten that were associated with May Day, There are, of course, no nuts to gather in May. They come in the autumn.

I believe the original was not nuts but knots and referred to the knots (bunches) of the mayflower tree (aka hawthorn) that are out at that time when it starts to get warm enough to put aside winter clothes. The mayflower is a symbol of spring and was gathered by young people in the woods on May Eve to make posies —knots of May—to give to the people in their village to commemorate the coming of new life, but particularly a member of the opposite sex they hoped to win as a bride or groom.

Like many May Day customs, which were originally fertility rites, it often got a bit out of hand. Some of the young folk would not come home till morning and not a few weddings would have to be solemnized in the following months. They were known as “greenwood marriages” having been consummated in advance in the woods when the new growth was still green. This makes the original meaning of the song pretty clear.

Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May Lyrics

Nuts in May, nuts in May,
Here we go gathering nuts in May,
On a cold and frosty morning.

Who will you have for nuts in May,
Nuts in May, nuts in May,
Who will you have for nuts in May,
On a cold and frosty morning.

We’ll have [name] for nuts in May,
Nuts in May, nuts in May,
We’ll have [name] for nuts in May,
On a cold and frosty morning.

Who will you have to take her away,
Take her away, take her away,
Who will you have to take her away,
On a cold and frosty morning.

We’ll have [name] to take her away,
Take her away, take her away,
We’ll have [name] to take her away,
On a cold and frosty morning.

Many thanks to Lawrence Silverman for sharing this with us!

-Mama Lisa

Photo: Wikipedia, cc by-sa 3.0.

This article was posted on Monday, May 22nd, 2017 at 8:23 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, England, English, Folk Songs, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Mama Lisa, May Day. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “About the Song “Here We Come Gathering Nuts in May” and May Day”

  1. Barbara Huet de Guerville Says:

    Newell’s Games and Songs of American Children has a number of versions, as well as history. His Appendix includes his sources in France, Canada, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, etc. He has the music to a number of rhymes I didn’t know were sung, as well as directions to games and dances — the dear man! Be sure and go to Google Books if you want to download. Ditto for JAFL (Journal of American Folklore). For francophones, Madame de Chabreul’s Jeux et Exercises des Jeunes Filles (1860) at Gallica has loads of songs, info plus musical notation.

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