May Day… Origins, Dirty Rotten Commies and What’s Next in the 21st Century

May Day…Origins... : An ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures.  The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, held April 27 during the Roman Republic era, and with the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries.  It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane, most commonly held on April 30.  The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures.  While February 1 was the first day of spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer.  Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the celebrations, the secular versions of May Day, observed in Europe and America, may be best known for their traditions of dancing around the maypole and crowning the Queen of May.  Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of "May baskets," small baskets of sweets or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbors' doorsteps. -

…Dirty Rotten Commies… – In the late 19th Century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers' Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago.  In those countries that celebrate International Workers' Day, May 1st is often referred to as "May Day."

In the mid 20th Century when I was growing up in the middle of the Cold War, the May Day Parade in the Kremlin was all over the evening news.  Those evil Ruskies were always bringing out their latest planes, tanks, nuclear tipped missiles and goose stepping by the tens of thousands across Red Square.

To tell the truth the best thing about May Day was the count down to the last day of school and the Memorial Day Holiday that marked the beginning of three months of total freedom.

…and What’s Next in the 21st Century – According to the Guardian’s Workers rally on May Day: Topless Femen activists perform the Nazi salute above flags reading ‘Heil Le Pen’, as they demonstrate against a rally by the far-right Front National in honor Joan of Arc in Paris.  Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds in Istanbul:

While the planes, tanks and missiles in Moscow’s Red Square seem to have been replaced by civilians with balloons, flags and artificial flowers:

In Tokyo the aftermath of Fukushima is part of the parade...

...while the garment workers of Pakistan demand a living wage:

In England some folk celebrate the pagan origins of May Day after the style of Monty Python: may-day-5172849/

...and Wiccans around the world will be celebrating Beltane by lighting fires, dancing, feasting and performing fertility rites:

Having never been a hardcore labor activist nor a Wiccan, I’m considering getting out of the house for an early celebration of Independent Book Store Day:

…and maybe treat myself to some sushi.

Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2015 JKM (an apparently ineffectual boilerplate joke?)

Views: 286

Comment by Jerry DeNuccio on May 1, 2015 at 9:54am

You reminded me of a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne called "John Endicott and the Red Cross," which tells the tale of the gloomy, dour Purtian Endicott arriving at a New World colony in the midst of a May Day celebration and promptly issuing a hellfired edict to ban it, the Maypole, the costumes, and even has the luxurious locks of the young men shorn.  Hawthorne, probably because one of his ancestors was a hanging judge at the Salem witch trials, had a divided perspective on Puritanism: on the one hand, he believed it repressed a basic human urge for exuberant play; on the other, as he says, they settled an inhospitable new world, accomplishing much because they imagined so little.  Endicott was a perfect example of H. L. Menken's definition of a Puritan: someone who suspects that somebody, somewhere, is having fun.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on May 1, 2015 at 10:08am


Comment by Arthur James on May 1, 2015 at 10:42am


staff do research...


i browse off-line...

in a pretty calm, and

Glorious Nature Meadow.


Mu Grandmother knew

H.L. Menken, and that

all gonna tell, aye reveal.


Comment by Gerald Andersen on May 1, 2015 at 11:38am
Jmac: thoro research as usual. In my Catholic school we had the crowning of the Blessed Virgin on May 1. A girl was selected, by what criteria I forget, to be the crowner. She was dressed in white with a floral head piece. The big statue of the BV was lugged on the shoulders of the upper grade boys. The chosen girl would crown the BV and the assembled students would sing: "Oh, Mary, we crown you with blossoms today, Queen of the Roses, Queen of the May." Seems very pagan, but what the hell it got us out of class for an hour.
Comment by koshersalaami on May 1, 2015 at 1:00pm
If you don't like these things, be glad.

These things are fun, and fun is bad.

Dr. Seuss for puritans
Comment by nerd cred on May 1, 2015 at 4:11pm

In 1975 I was in Warsaw for a genuine commie mayday. I don't remember much, I was overwhelmed, having been there a week or so and being surprised that I could be at such an iconic event right during the cold war. And I had a couple of little kids to shepherd through some serious crowds so remembering wasn't a priority.

In my Catholic school the May procession was the first Sunday in May - an extra trip to church on Sunday afternoon. Girls wore spring dresses. Only the crowner wore hair flowers. She was chosen by the nuns for being the goodest in 8th grade. Or being the ones the nuns liked best. There was also a flower girl - a kindergartener who scattered petals before her. I don't remember who it was in my class. Not me. In kindergarten it was Jane who I didn't know then but who became a good friend in high school when we worked together. I thought she was chosen because she was the smallest and that could be true. I forget what we sang but it was special and I like it.

Now there's the commie South Mineapolis mayday. There's a welcoming back the sun ceremony on the little lake after a parade. It's better.

Comment by Theodora L'Engle Knight on May 1, 2015 at 4:23pm

another brilliant post!!! the research you do is beyond impressive. the photos are gorgeous. i love the saturated color in some of them. so cool how much your readers know about this and everything else. R & L!!!!!!

Comment by Abrawang on May 1, 2015 at 5:49pm

Great round-up jmac, but where are the Maypole dancers?

Comment by JMac1949 Today on May 1, 2015 at 6:03pm

Abra, first illustration, wood cut at the top of the post.

Comment by Poor Woman on May 1, 2015 at 6:18pm

Yep--up at the very top--an old fashioned Maypole.

You're even more prolific than ever, methinks, jmac.

You may have your sushi. Think I'll hit the salad bar. Nyuk.



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