The annual "May crowning" is perennially popular in Catholic homes and schools, and here's how to organize your own ceremony at home.
If you remember doing a yearly May crowning growing up, you know it’s one of the sweetest Catholic traditions that becomes a fond memory throughout life. Children gather to sing hymns to Our Lady, present her with the first flowers of the spring, and crown her with a small wreath of blossoms. Usually schools or churches host the ceremony, but this year, you can plan your own May crowning at home.
Why do we crown Mary?
May is designated as the month of Mary. The word “May” itself is said to originate from her name, and the girls’ name “May” or “Mae” is a derivative of Mary. It’s customary for Christians to honor her during this month.
But why a crown? In a way, the tradition actually comes from Scripture. In Revelation 12, Mary is described in this way: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”
The “crown” mentioned in Scripture declares her role as queen, the honored mother of Christ the King. In fact, the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, “The Crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth,” helps us to remember this.
Using flowers to make a crown is not only seasonally appropriate (and a lot easier to make than the Scriptural crown of stars!), but recalls Mary’s role as our mother. Like children who run to give their mother every dandelion their little hands can pick, we join with the Christ Child in bringing our Mother these simple offerings with hearts full of love.
Teaching children to love the Virgin Mary
While anyone of any age can certainly crown Our Lady this May, the May crowning is especially fitting to do with children. Bringing flowers to Mary and crowning her with them makes visible both her mighty queenship and her loving motherhood. It’s a powerful lesson for children, and the beauty of the ceremony helps kindle their hearts with affection toward our mother.
As we wait out these days in quarantine, you might like to organize a May crowning in your own home. It only takes a few minutes, but is a lovely devotion that will leave a lasting memory.
A May crowning ceremony usually involves these three elements:
- Placing a crown on Our Lady’s head
- Singing hymns to Our Lady
- Presenting Mary with flowers placed before her
If you have a statue of Mary and fresh flowers, you’ve got everything you need. But perhaps you don’t have a statue or can’t get flowers. Instead you can use any image of Our Lady that you have, and make a crown out of paper.
Tissue paper flowers would be pretty, but simply drawing a paper crown for a picture hanging on the wall will work too. The flowers can also be made of paper; you might have your children draw or color in flowers and place their drawing on the wall below Mary’s image.
While any Marian hymn would be appropriate to sing, such as “Hail, Holy Queen” or “Salve Regina,” the traditional hymn for a May Crowning is called “Bring Flowers of the Rarest”:
Bring flowers of the fairest, Bring flowers of the rarest, From garden and woodland And hillside and dale; Our full hearts are swelling, Our Glad voices telling The praise of the loveliest rose of the vale. O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May, O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May. Our voices ascending, In harmony blending, Oh, thus may our hearts turn Dear Mother, to thee; Oh, thus shall we prove thee How truly we love thee, How dark without Mary Life’s journey would be. O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May, O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May. O Virgin most tender, Our homage we render, Thy love and protection, Sweet Mother, to win. In danger defend us, In sorrow befriend us, And shield our hearts From contagion and sin. O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May, O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May. Of Mothers the dearest, Oh, wilt thou be nearest, When life with temptation Is darkly replete? Forsake us, O never! Our hearts be they ever As Pure as the lilies We lay at thy feet. O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May, O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.
A May crowning ceremony is an occasion of joy, ushering in the warm weather of springtime with a tribute to the Mother of God, and of us all. There’s never been a better time to practice this tradition than now, when we could all use some happy news, not to mention something to do at home. Hopefully you will have a chance to crown Mary this month of May!