Friday, 1 May 2009

Happy May Day!

Monday, the 4th of May is a Bank Holiday over here in England. What with getting a 4-day weekend over Easter, an early May Bank Holiday and a late May Bank Holiday, I always thought those two months were pretty brilliant. However, I never understood why a largely secular country like the UK would go so overboard about Easter when the US never has, or what was the significance, if any, of either of the May holidays here in the UK.

From cursory reading I find that May Day is a pagan celebration of their first day of summer, or of spring planting, depending upon which website one reads. I was sort of thinking that the early May Bank Holiday might have something to do with May Day, but apparently not.

You would be forgiven for thinking we all feast and prance around the village Maypole on the 1st of May over here, but I've yet to ever see it. In fact, the celebrations in this area appear to be few and far between. I suppose most folks are at work on Friday before the long weekend.

One website says that the US doesn't celebrate May Day because the Puritans didn't care for the holiday. No church cared much for the holiday, it would seem. In fact, Mayday and the Maypole were abolished in the 1600's over here.

I heard sometime soon after moving here that the US didn't celebrate May Day because it was connected with the labour rights movement. That didn't make much sense to me, as I didn't think labour rights organisations would be fighting for the right to feast and prance...

This website does a good job of explaining about the ancient history of May Day and then the labour fight for an 8-hour day in the 1880's in Chicago. It's a pretty scary story, actually, but most of us are grateful that we had 8 rather than 10-12-14 hour work days. Once the authors of this website go into the modern May Day stuff, I lose interest, though...

And why is Mayday the code word for a distress signal, anyhow? Turns out it's from the French, venez m'aider, meaning 'come help me'.

Anyhow, Happy May Day!


Anonymous said...

Love the flowers. I am trying to grow some this year. They are in and have set up an automatic watering system in hopes they will make it.

I remember May day celebrations, but then I am older than you. Also thought May Day turned into Earth Day over here. But this year Earth Day was celebrated in April.

Guess I am really old and losing it.


Rick Stone said...

Actually, Easter used to be a big deal here in the middle of America. When I was in high school we always got out of school on the Friday before and the Monday after Easter. It was called the Easter Holiday. Later, the secularlist got involved and those two days out of school were taken away and replaced with spring break, just like the collges do. Now spring break is not normally the same week as Easter.

As for Mayday, back in the 1950's the grade school kids actually did go out to the play ground and to the Maypole thing, using a tether-ball pole to wrap the ribbons around. I never really understood the Maypole or Mayday either.