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May Day – what is it all about and why do we celebrate it?

May Day – what is it all about and why do we celebrate it?

May Day, also known as Labour Day or International Workers’ Day, is a public holiday celebrated on May 1st every year. It is a holiday that is recognized in many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, and countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. But why do we celebrate, and what is its significance?

Labor movement

May Day has its roots in the labor movement of the late 19th century. In the United States, the holiday was first celebrated in 1886, as part of the struggle for the eight-hour workday. On May 1st of that year, hundreds of thousands of workers across the country went on strike, demanding better working conditions and shorter working hours. The strike was peaceful at first, but on May 4th, a bomb exploded at a labor demonstration in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, killing several people and injuring many others. The incident sparked a restraint on labor activism, but it also invigorated the labor movement and led to the establishment of May Day as a day of labor solidarity and protest.


Pagan traditions

In other parts of the world, the holiday has a different history. In Europe, for example, it finds its roots in pagan traditions, particularly the celebration of Beltane, a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of summer. In Germany, the day is known as Maifeiertag and is celebrated with dancing, singing and the raising of maypoles. In Finland and Sweden, May Day is celebrated with picnics and outdoor activities, while in the United Kingdom, the celebration includes Morris dancing and other traditional folk customs.

May Day celebration with May pole

Political activism and social justice

Regardless of its origins, May 1st has become a day for workers to come together and demand better working conditions, fair wages and other labor rights. In many countries, labor unions and other worker organizations hold parades, rallies, and other events to celebrate the achievements of the labor movement and to call for further improvements in working conditions. It’s also a day for political activism and social justice, and a time for protests and demonstrations on a wide range of issues, from environmentalism to anti-war activism to LGBTQ+ rights. May Day has become a day for people to come together and demand a more just and equitable society for all.

Protest anti war on May Day

At EF Academy, history is an important subject that helps our students understand the world around them. But it’s not just about learning about the past – it’s also about understanding the cultures and traditions of different countries. With 60+ nationalities represented in our school community, EF Academy students have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the customs and traditions of people from all over the world. By becoming part of this diverse community, students broaden their perspectives and develop a deeper appreciation for the richness and diversity of human culture.