Traditionally, the month of May has been dedicated by the Catholic Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary. May events usually pertain to the crowning of Mary as the “Queen of May” as her image is crowned with flowers. This special honor is related to Mary’s special role as the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God.
This devotion is said to have originated from the Jesuits as a means of counteracting immorality and infidelity among the students of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus. This was sometime towards the end of the 18th century. The practice eventually spread to other Jesuit Colleges as well as Catholic churches. Various forms of Marian devotions were soon practiced including pilgrimages, daily recitation of rosary, and the May Altar.
The May Altar can be placed in churches or homes. The altar is typically a table with a Marian picture or image, decorated with different flowers abloom in May. Families pray the rosary preferably the whole month, hopefully to instill the practice all throughout. .
Churches on the other hand, may hold processions prior to the start of every mass. Children typically dressed in white carry letters to spell out “AVE MARIA”. The practice of honoring Mary with flowers was traced to Medieval Europe’s monasteries and convents. People of the Middle Ages usually associate Mary with their gardens and this might be attributed to the floral imagery liberally used in the writings of Church Fathers.
In the Philippines, daily offering of flowers in churches is quite common in observance of Flores de Mayo, and culminating in a major event called the Santacruzan. This parade includes biblical characters and historical figures in relation to St. Helena’s search for the true cross of Jesus Christ. The mobile arches used by each participant are decked with flowers plus other decorations denoting bounty.