While this year here in the UK, 1st May is a common working day, a lot of people around the world are enjoying a day off thanks to the International Workers’ Day, which commemorates the fight for workers’ rights. It is originally said to have a Celtic origin from Beltane, the Festival of Light, which welcomes the spring season. However, workers’ achievement of an eight-hour working day in the 19th century in the United States is the event that defines it.
Even though May Day is usually marked by workers’ demonstrations, there are also some curious events that take place in some countries. For instance, in France it is traditional to present muguets (lilies-of-the valley) to friends or loved ones, as they are supposed to bring luck.
In Italy there is an event organised by trade unions, il Concerto del Primo Maggio (the 1st May Concert), which is held in Rome in Piazza Porta San Giovanni and it is open to everybody. In some German regions, you may see bonfires the night before on Walpurgis Night, but all over Germany you can enjoy fairs and concerts on 1st May. In the UK, the bank holiday is celebrated on the first Monday of May.
One of the curious traditions that still continues in some English schools is maypole dancing, where children have to dance around a pole to celebrate the end of the winter. For those who do not know this tradition, a folk tradition that is also celebrated in some parts of Germany and Austria, you can watch this video.
What have you done for May Day this year? Are you celebrating the end of the winter or does the first of May mean more about International Workers Day to you? Either way, we’d love to hear from you so get in touch with us and let us know.