1st of May, International Workers Day (aka May Day, and Labors Day) is a public holiday that occurs each year on the first of May. It was first established in 1889 to honor the Haymarket affair in Chicago and the struggle for an eight-hour working day.
celebrate the 1st of May
Floralia: the earliest May celebrations took place more than two thousand years ago in Rome. The event was to commemorate the Festival of the Flora (Roman goddess of flowers and the season of spring). This festival was a five-day-long event that included dancing, flower gathering, theatrical performances, a circus, and feasting.
In many European cultures, the 1st of May celebrations take place to welcome the return of spring. It is also an ancient festival marking the first day of summer. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the events.
Each country celebrates the first of May in its own way. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Germany – Walpurgis Festival: the event takes place on the night between April 30 to May 1. On that night, bonfires are lit and the wrapping of a Maibaum (maypole) starts. Legend says witches gathered to host a huge ceremony to await the coming of Spring with bonfires and dancing. To fight off the witches and the evil spirits, people made as much noise as possible and lit huge to keep them away. Today, this tradition still continues.
Italy – Calendimaggio: the celebration of the return to life and rebirth. During this event, people dress up in medieval costumes. There are a variety of activities to participate in, including horse riding, crossbow-shooting competitions, and the election of a Madonna Primavera (Queen of Spring). There are also singing competitions, day and night processions, feasts, and flower dances to welcome the new spring and the renewed joy of life.
Hawaii: Lei are Hawaiian flower necklaces, and are worn by everyone on May 1, which is the official Lei Day. These flowers are a symbol of the aloha spirit in Hawaii. On Lei Day there are lei-making demonstrations, concerts, and lots of celebrations. Each island has a different style of Lei.
Greece: the most common aspect of May Day celebrations is the preparation of a flower wreath from wildflowers. The wreaths are hung either on the entrance to the family house/apartment or on a balcony. It remains there until midsummer night. On that night, the flower wreaths are set alight in bonfires known as Saint John’s fires.
Bulgaria – Irminden: legend says snakes come out of their burrows every year on March 25, but their leader appears on 1st of May. That is why all workers take a free day off on May Day to avoid any bites. There are bonfires to keep the snakes away and lots of celebrations to welcome in the spring and summer.
Finland: “Vappu” (in Finnish) or ‘vappen’ (in Swedish) is the biggest carnival-style festival held in Finland’s cities and towns. The celebrations begin on the evening of April 30 and continue on the 1st of May Student traditions are one of the main characteristics of Vappu.
France: the 1st of May 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer the same flower each year to the ladies present at his court. Nowadays, people give their loved ones either lily of the valley or dog rose flowers.
Scotland / Ireland – Beltane (‘day of fire’ in Celtic): was an ancient Celtic fire festival celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man on May 1. Bel was the god of the sun in Celtic tradition. Ancient Celts believed that the sun was taken prisoner during the winter months. So on Beltane, they would light special bonfires to welcome the sun back to its rightful place. This tradition still continues today.