May Day

By | May 1, 2016

May 1st is a holiday in many countries. One such holiday is International Workers’ Day (a name used interchangeably with May Day) a celebration of the achievements of the international labor movement. In the United States many view it as a socialist or communist celebration, although the day is the commemoration of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) of the United States and Canada had set the date of May 1, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become the standard work day. In the Chicago area of Haymarket Square on May 4, a riot broke out between strikers against employers who did not grant the 8 hour work day. The strikers lost.

May Day is also a holiday that was celebrated in pagan Europe. It was a festival day to celebrate the spring planting. For the Druids it was the second most important day in the year when they celebrated the festival of Beltane.

From this May Day celebration comes the May Pole and the May Pole Dance. In the Middle Ages the villages would bring a pole to the center of the village from the adjoining forest. At times neighboring villages would even have contest to see who had the tallest pole.

In the bigger towns, such as London, the poles would become a permanent structure. This custom came to America with the English colonist. One such structure in the center of New York was renamed the Liberty Pole just prior to the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

At Washington College, a small Liberal Arts College located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the first of May has become a day when the students celebrate the coming of the end of the semester and the beginning of summer with an unique liberating May Day tradition.


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