So, how did you celebrate May Day yesterday? What? You didn’t celebrate? You didn’t even know it was a day to celebrate something?
You could have celebrated Hawaiian history and culture with Lei Day in Hawaii.
In Minneapolis, there was a big parade and pageant staged by the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre that has been going on since 1975 and attracts about 35,000 people every year.
May Day, the first of May, is actually full of holidays. Many countries celebrate Labor Day on that day, which dates back to the labor movement in the United States more than a hundred years ago.
Back in 1886, unions around the country went on strike. They were protesting to get an eight-hour workday. Many of the strike organizers were really communists, socialists and anarchists and so May Day became associated with communism. It was a big national holiday in the Soviet Union.
President Eisenhower tried to wrest the day back during the anti-communist Cold War days and it was rebranded Law Day and Loyalty Day.
The first of May is a celebration of spring and fertility in places like Egypt and India.
In Germany, May first was the date of a pagan festival that Christians flipped into the feast day of St. Walpurgis. The night before — Walpurgisnacht — is still celebrated in parts of rural Germany as a kind of Valentine’s Day.
In medieval England, you would gather flowers to “bring in the May.” You’ve heard of the maypole bedecked with garlands? It’s also the date of Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival. The Gaelic word bealltainn means “May First” and the day was a celebration of the start of summer often accompanied by bonfires. It has seen some revival by neo-pagans.
Shooting back to pre-Christian Rome, it was the time of the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers.