Worker’s Day and Maypole Day

2015-04-29 14:12

THESE days 1 May is known as Workerand#039;s Day it has, since ancient times, been celebrated as May Day overseas as the last of a series of rites celebrating the arrival of spring.

On the first day of May, English­ villagers rose at daybreak to wander the countryside gathering blossoming flowers and branches.

A towering, tall maypole was set up on the village green and decorated with bright flowers of the field. In celebration of the season, villagers danced and sang around the maypole, accompanied by the music of a piper. The fairest maiden of the village was chosen to be the queen of May. In some regions in England a May king was also chosen. The queen and king of May led the village dancers and ruled over the May Day festivities.

On May Day in Switzerland, a small May pine tree is often placed under a girland#039;s window to encourage health, development and fertility. In Germany it was the custom for boys to secretly plant May trees in front of the windows of their sweethearts. This is said to ensure fidelity and the return of love.

Greek children set out early in the morning to search for the first Swallow of spring. When the bird is located, the children go from door to door, singing songs of spring. The neighbours in turn offer special treats to the children.

In France May is sacred to the Virgin Mary. Virginal young girls serve as May queens and lead processions in honour of the Virgin Mary, carrying a statue of the virgin crowned with flowers.

Cows appear in French May Day festivals, possibly as the remnant of a forgotten mother image or symbol of fertility and nurturing. Bundles of flowers are tied and draped around the cowand#039;s tail as they are led along in street parades. To touch one of the cows is believed to bring good luck, and everyone makes the attempt.

An old custom is to drink warm milk directly from the cow on May Day morning. This is said to bring good fortune throughout the coming year.

Although modern May festivals in Italy are associated with Mary and saints, their history dates back to ancient Roman paganism. The people­ of ancient Rome honoured­ Maia and Flora, the goddesses of flowers and spring.

Their statues were wreathed in garlands and carried in a procession of singers and dancers past a sacred, blossom-bedecked tree, the forerunner of the modern maypole.

International Worker’s Day is a name used interchangeably with May Day, a celebration of the social and economic achievements of the international labour movement.

The history goes back to 1886 in Chicago when police tried to disperse a large crowd of striking workers protesting for a shorter work day of eight hours. A bomb was thrown at a policeman. The police then proceeded to fire at the unarmed workers.

A congress of world socialist parties in Paris in 1889 voted to support the U.S. labour­ movementand#039;s demand for an eight-hour day. It chose 1 May, 1890, as a day of demonstrations­ in favour of the eight-hour day. Afterwards, 1 May became a holiday­ - Labour Day - in many nations.

May Day is actually the festival of the year for which there is no significant church service. Because of this, it has always been a strong secular festival, particularly among the working class, who would often take the day off to celebrate it without employerand#039;s approval. It was a popular custom - a peopleand#039;s day - and so it became identified with the Labour and socialist movements and by the 20th century it was rooted as part of the socialist calendar.

In South Africa 1 May, Worker’s Day is a public holiday inaugurated following the first democratic elections in 1994

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