Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy May Day Everyone!

It's May 1st also known as May Day. It also marks the beginning of the 2011 WordCount Blogathon.

(Info here: which I will be participating in this year.

Derived from Walpurgis Night, Flora and Beltane celebrations, the pagan holidays that preceded May Day originally marked the beginning of the farming season in the Northern hemisphere. After a harsh cold winter and the finishing up of the planting season, people needed to let off steam and the May holiday became the occasion for popular and raucous celebrations as well as to give thanks to the pagan Gods for their good favor.

As Christianity spread May Day became more of a secular holiday rather than a religious one especially coming so soon after Easter. In time it evolved into a holiday with many connotations. The Socialist movement designated May 1st as International Workers’ Day and it was adopted as such by anarchists, communists and other activist groups.

The concept of a day that celebrated workers began in Australia in 1856 when stonemasons succeeded in gaining better rights for themselves. Twenty years later in Chicago Illinois the police opened fire on workers who were demonstrating for better conditions. This became known as the Haymarket Square riots and led to the observation of a Worker’s Solidarity Day globally.

Ironically although the movement got a tremendous impetus from the Haymarket riots, in 1958, the United States named May 1st as “Loyalty Day” because the former Soviet Union celebrated it as “International Workers Day” or “Labour/Labor Day.” This contributed to the move by the United States to move their Labor Day to the first Monday in September. The first official US government Labor Day took place in 1894 as a means of reconciliation by President Grover Cleveland.

More about this holiday as it pertains to labor can be found here: where there is an excellent history of the holiday as it applies to the labor movement. Especially at this time when we have to deal with the Governor Walkers of the United States who would cast us all back into the dark ages of labor rights it is important to read and educate oneself.

Elsewhere around the world May 1st has become a cause for celebrations of various sorts. In Hawaii it is known as “Lei Day” and it is also known in parts of the United States as “Law Day.”

However you choose to celebrate it, enjoy this glorious day and Happy May Day!

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