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Workers Unite for International Holiday

Artwork+by+Michael+Pruchanskiy
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Workers Unite for International Holiday

Artwork by Michael Pruchanskiy

Artwork by Michael Pruchanskiy

Artwork by Michael Pruchanskiy

Artwork by Michael Pruchanskiy

Julia Moyer, Staff Writer

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   May Day is a holiday that most people don’t know exists, let alone what it’s about, or what it celebrates. This public, worldwide occasion takes place on May 1 and recognizes a new spring season coming into play. It also encompasses a celebration you have probably heard about before, International Workers’ Day.

   May Day is typically acknowledged in the Northern Hemisphere. According to the History Channel, “The Celts of the British Isles believed May 1 to be the most important day of the year, when the festival of Beltane was held.” It was a festival that divided the light and dark seasons of the year. The Celts commemorated this special tradition by using fire to “celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world” (history.com).

   According to a website about holidays, the Romans then came and took over the British Isles. When doing so, they incorporated their own traditions, which included worshiping Flora, the goddess of flowers. The occasion was called Floralia, which lasted five days. “Gradually, the rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane” (theholidayspot.com).

   A famous tradition linked with May Day is the maypole. According to the History Channel, “Villagers would enter the woods to find a maypole that was then set up for the day in small towns. The day’s festivities involved merriment, as people would dance around the pole clad with colorful streamers and ribbons.” Villages would compete against each other to see who could create the tallest pole. It was thought that the first maypole symbolized male fertility and flowers, baskets, and wreaths stood for female fertility. Over the years, the maypole has taken on a new addition called, May Basket Day, “…where baskets were created with flowers, candies, and other treats and hung on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones on May 1” (history.com).

   You are now probably wondering, what does International Workers’ Day have to do with May Day? The connection between these two began in the 1880s. People were fighting for fair labor rights by reason of the thousands of heartbreaking stories of  “…men, women, and children dying every year from poor working conditions and long hours.” The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) gathered to put an end to these cruel conditions. Ever since May 1, 1886, the FOTLU made it so that a legal day’s labor would consist of eight hours (history.com).

   May Day is not a big holiday here in the states, but other countries put their own crazy twists on this celebration. According to Newsweek, “Students at St. Andrews University in Edinburgh run stark naked into the sea at sunrise every May 1.” In Oxford, a choir performs from the Magdalen Tower at six in the morning, “…while students from Oxford’s Magdalen College jump from Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell.” In 1978, in the United Kingdom, James Callaghan’s Labour government created the May Day Bank holiday, where the first Monday of the month was declared an official day off (newsweek.com).

   Senior Arynn Agustino said, “I didn’t even know there was a holiday called May Day, but I have heard about International Workers’ Day before.” She added, “I would love to celebrate May Day this year by doing something exciting with my friends to celebrate the spring season.”

   Now that you know the origins of May Day and how International Workers’ Day became a part of it, make this one memorable. Be grateful for the warm weather and spring season this May. It’s also a good time to acknowledge all of the hard work society puts into our community. You can even spice up this unique festivity and do something as crazy as running into the ocean at sunrise.

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