It's May Day
The ancient pagan festival of May Day is celebrated throughout the northern hemisphere today.
May Day is all about welcoming the spring, chasing away evil spirits and, in Germany, relief that Witches' Night, or Walpurgisnacht, is over. In towns everywhere, the community turns out to the square for the ceremonial raising of the maypole (Maibaum) and the festivities that follow, with traditional music, dances and, of course, beer and sausage.
The earliest May Day celebrations can be traced back to the Floralia, or festival of Flora, which was held to worship the Roman goddess of flowers, and that's why today we will be light-heartedly drinking a Floral Martini.
Some villages in England will be putting up a maypole, adopting a May Queen and perhaps tying bells to their socks and dancing. An oft-attributed and thoroughly mangled quotation remarks that "there are only two things one should never try: incest and morris dancing." We are eschewing both morris dancing and protesting, in favour of an eminently civilized Mayfair Cocktail, courtesy of Harry Craddock's seminal Savoy Cocktail Book. Does the name originate from the May Fair, traditionally held on this day in, well, Mayfair? Or does it honour the area itself? We aren't sure. But we are sure you will appreciate this fantastic blend of gin and fruit, with extra interest from cloves. Enjoy!
Today is Beltane
Today is May Day, but it's also Beltane, the Celtic fire and fertility festival that marks the beginning of summer - just as Samhain, on 31 October, marks the beginning of winter. (And, yes, that is where Halloween comes from.)
In olden times Beltane marked the astronomical midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. As at all the best fertility festivals, sex in the woods was de rigeur, although human sacrifice probably put a downer on proceedings.
Today most pagans celebrate Beltane on 1 May, generally with rather tame activities such as bonfires, gathering morning dew, or collecting hawthorn branches. But we are toasting the arrival of summer with an aptly named Black Magic - do join us!
It's also the anniversary of The World's Smallest Movie
This time in 2013, IBM released officially "the world's smallest movie - a stop-mo animation about a little boy and his atom buddy, imaginatively entitled A Boy and His Atom. Sound lame?
Well, scientists made it by individually manipulating individual atoms. So, every single frame is shot on the atomic scale, and every atom in the picture is a real, bona fide atom. And atoms, for those of us who slept through chemistry class, are seriously tiny: a single grain of sand contains around 22,000,000,000,000,000,000 of the little buggers.
And perhaps, just perhaps, this kind of freaky technology could be coming to your phone, your laptop -- or, hell, your glasses or your watch -- very soon. Scientists have managed to compress a single bit of data into just 12 atoms - whereas current memory systems take a whopping million atoms to do the same. Which means that memory cards will be getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller.
We don't know about you, but our minds are rather blown. So, we're recovering with an aptly named Gin Atomic, created by Brendan Mainini at San Francisco's Ambassador.