The 1st of May is a bit of a mixed day. Officially the UK has the early May bank holiday the 1st of May (or closest Monday) . In most countries it is worker’s day and traditionally in Northern Europe it is May day. In the UK it is deliberately not called either May Day or Worker’s Day to avoid any issues.
International worker’s dayIn 1886 many Chicago workers went on strike to demand an 8-hour work day, after a few days a bomb was detonated and a firearm fight started. In the end 8 workers died while defending their rights. In 1904 the International Socialist Congress declared that “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries [are] to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace” and that it was “mandatory upon the proletarian organisations of all countries to stop work on 1 May, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers”. Most countries now have an unmovable bank holiday on May 1st.
May DayMay day was the traditional day when Spring’s arrival was celebrated. In most Celtic cultures it is called Beltane, and it is still celebrated today. In the UK it’s still common to find celebrations particularly in countryside areas of Ireland and Scotland. It is a celebration of life waking up after Winter. The most common celebrations include:
- Maypole: a tall wooden pole with bright coloured ribbons coming from the top. Dancers grab a ribbon each and dance around the pole. Sometimes when the dance is finished the pole ends up being covered with the ribbons as a way of decoration.
- Morris dancing: a traditional folk dance of the British Isles. The rhythm is marked by loud stepping, usually from special wooden shoes. Dancers usually have bells, shiny objects and handkerchiefs attached to their costumes, and they usually dance in groups of 6. Many times they carry swords or sticks on their hands that help mark the rhythm of the dancing.
- Town fetes: celebrations held in each town where people usually bring food to share.
- May Queen: a young girl (usually school age) who is selected to be the representative of that year’s celebration during the town fete and sometimes for other events throughout the year.