I don’t think that there’s a definitive answer about the origins of the maypole, although the tradition of dancing around a maypole seems to have been with us since forever. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Miriam Josefsohn and her friends danced around a maypole in 1912, although the earliest photograph I’ve seen from Portland comes from a few years later. It shows children dancing around a maypole in front of the Kennedy School in 1916.
The celebration continues, thanks to the Maypole Dancers from the Laurelhurst School. Here’s a recent snapshot of them performing in front of the Kennedy school (now a McMenamin’s hotel and restaurant). See them dance today!
May Day has been around for 2,250 years. At least. Way back when, the Romans celebrated the coming of spring with a festival honoring Flora, the goddess of flowers. In northern Europe some people celebrated April 30-May 1 with bonfires, and treated the time as a gathering of witches six months after All Hallows’ Eve. For others, May 1 was the official start of summer, a time to send the cattle into the summer pastures and to perform rites to insure a good crop. Perhaps Miriam celebrated May Day the way these young ladies did in Maryland in 1906. Happy May Day!