The first of May, International Workers’ Day is celebrated (nearly) all over the world. In fact, more than a celebration, it is the commemoration of a tragic historical event that happened in 1886: the strike for workers’ rights at an American factory that ended in the death of several demonstrators. Their big “crime”? Demanding to work a maximum of 8 hours per day.
Reflecting on this day, we remember the progress that has been made in labour matters and recognise that there is still a long way to go for equal labour rights. Though International Workers’ Day is celebrated around the world, each country honours this day differently. Find out which millionaire gifted his workers over £100 on this day!
A worldwide celebration
The United States, where the dramatic event took place leading to the Workers’ Day celebration – does not celebrate it! Well, not on May 1st at least. It’s a pity because you could make a great pun out of “Mayday” at demonstrations!
With all the intentions in the world, they moved it to September – most likely to rid it of socialist connotations and dissociate it from a dramatic event: the State violently dispersing a passive demonstration and making the same old victims pay the price (when will this stop being the way?). Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are following in its wake…
In the UK, May Day is celebrated on the first Monday of every May, not on May 1st. Traditional May Day honours the spring fertility of the land and its people. If you find yourself in Oxford on this day, you’ll hear a tradition that has lasted over 500 years; singing from the top of the Magdalen Tower by the Magdalen College Choir.
If you happen to be in London’s Trafalgar Square, there won’t be hymns but protests organised by the London May Day Committee who aim to move May Day back to May 1st, regardless of the day on which it falls.
In China, Workers’ Day could also be called Travel Day. The government has added days to this holiday and many Chinese take advantage of this time and travel. Mayday Mayday! These days taken off need to be made up by working the previous weekend!
In Mexico, as it is considered more a holiday than a day for making demands, the service sector keeps its doors open. Restaurants, clubs, entertainment venues will all be open and these workers wait patiently for their own May Day!
In Chile, we find one of the few businessmen who actively celebrate Workers’ Day with their workers. In 2012, millionaire Leonardo Farkas greeted his emplyees via his Twitter account and gave each one a gift of 100,000 pesos. No Mayday distress signal here!
Argentina is especially attractive during the month of May, and the Plaza de Mayo; where history was written, is a huge magnet for it. On this day, workers have an appointment in the plaza continuing to fight for justice.
May Day is also celebrated in Germany! Walpurgis Night or Witches Night is a very popular nocturnal celebration held every 30th of April. A traditional Pagan festival with universal customs that never go out of fashion: partying, dancing, and drinking. This date also holds one of the most emblematic social events of the year: the Maitour, a bicycle race for the whole family – to cure the damage from the night before!
France, an expert when it comes to revolutions, adds a touch of glamour to its protests. The tradition being to gift a lily of the valley – an aromatic flower – as a token of good luck. Just between us: after so many years of protests and uprisings, when the French start leaving their triumphs to chance, it’s not very encouraging, to tell the truth…
In Italy, the massive open-air Primo Maggio concert held in Rome is now a legend in its own time. In order to defend what life gives us, we have to put life into it!
In Greece, Workers’ Day coincides with the celebrations for the arrival of spring: family festivities surrounded by nature and flower garlands crown the entrances of every home. Taking into account the financial and social drama the country is going through, it could be a poetic image described by Homer: the desire for sacrifice in order to show its fruits. It is also a comfort, because every year, no matter how terrible, has its spring.
What will your May 1st be like?
|Interested in reading this article in German? Click here. Interested in reading this article in Spanish? Click here.|