First of May

May 1st is special for clowns. It is a birthday of sorts and a name for new clowns. According to the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center, the term “First of May”, derives from the opening of the new circus season, traditionally on or around the first day of May in the tenting circus days. The term is used to describe newcomers to the circus profession. Clowns in particular made much ado about “joining out” or being a First of May with all the innumerable inconveniences, indignities and splendid joys attendant to being a participant in the ancient and honorable brotherhood of clowning.

Now, many clowns, including those who never worked on a circus, call new clowns a “First of May”.

Wikipedia says, “First of May — A term also used in the carnival, meaning a novice performer in his first season on a show. Shows used to leave winter quarters for their opening spot on the first of May, and there are always some new workers hired on the first of May who have never worked shows before.”

Goodmagic says, “First of May — A novice performer or worker in his first season. Shows usually play the season’s opening spot on the first of May, so the term means someone “green” who is new to circus life.”

All About Clowns says, “A clown would begin to create his face as a “First of May,” which is what clowns were called during their first season with a show. By the time he was a “Johnny Come Lately,” (in the second season) he or she might still make changes.”

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