Posted on : May 4th, 2018
Remember this old nursery rhyme? Did you ever wonder what it means? I don’t know of any trees that have nuts in May! (Or I didn’t before I decided to do this blog post.) 🙂
The song “Nuts in May” is sung to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” and one is considered a variation on the other. It was first recorded by British folklorist Alice Gomme in the book The Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland (published sometime between 1894-8). That means it is MUCH older than that and possibly not of English origin at all as the melody is known in parts of Scandinavia. That might account for the “frosty morning” part but they don’t have nuts on the trees in May either!
On the other hand, they do have Earthnuts, or Pignuts, in the British woodlands. Those are edible tubers that children would dig up on their way to or from school to nibble on as they walked. They taste like young hazelnuts and are definitely ready in May where they might have been gathered to cook with rabbit for May Day celebrations.
And that leads us to the grand tradition of going “a maying”, which is almost certainly what this song is about. That’s when, on May Day, you gather your dearest love by the hand and run off for a tryst in the woods to celebrate!
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