Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May Day Meanings

May Day has three origins depending on the meaning.

Spring Celebration
May Day began thousands of years ago as a pagan celebration of Spring. May is midway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice but mostly that was an excuse for women to wear flowers and dance around gayly and men to flirt with the ladies. Christians, of course, tried to expropriate the celebration but with much less success than they had with Easter.

International Workers' Day
Since 1890, around the world, May 1st has been the day chosen to celebrate the rights of workers. The one exception is the nation in which the event being remembered occurred. That nation is the United States.

In May 1886 in Chicago workers were holding a general strike to demand eight-hour work days. A peaceful march was being held which Chicago police were trying to break up. A bomb was thrown at the police who then rioted and opened fire on the demonstrators. It became known as the Haymarket Riot. Four years later the Second Socialists International designated May 1st to commemorate the Haymarket event as a key moment in the fight for worker's rights.

In 1894, the United States deliberately picked another day for its official Labor Day. The September Labor Day commemorates the date that Federal troops crushed the Pullman workers strike, killing 30. It is a date much more in tune with the American attitude towards worker's rights.

Mayday - Help!
Traditionally the last words shouted into by a pilot before his plane performs a crash landing. Mayday is the internationally recognized vocal distress signal,  the verbal equivalent of Morse Code's S-O-S. It was created by a radio operator at a London airfield in 1923 and based on the French word m’aider, sort of meaning "come help."

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