How America changed the meaning of May Day

Olivia Longmore, Staff Reporter

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The meaning of May Day has changed over the years in our country. The original day was commemorated as a celebration of the changing seasons. In the European cultures May day was thought to divide the year in half. It separated the light months from the dark months. It soon changed and became a celebration for the goddess “Floria” or “flowers”.

May Day is celebrated with a variety of traditions. In festivals, fire was lit as a symbol of the Earth’s fertility. While others danced around maypoles with colorful flags or ribbons. In America, there was a tradition in which family members or loved ones would place a basket near the front door. These baskets were filled with flowers, treats, and other sorts of gifts made specifically for the recipient. In some places, hanging a basket on someone’s door showed a romantic interest with the other person. The recipient then had one of two choices. She could either “steal a kiss” from the gift giver or accept it graciously while denying the prospect of romance.

The United states was the first to declare May Day as an national holiday. May Day is a recognized holiday in 66 countries. Yet, May Day is rarely celebrated in America. It is hardly recognized as a holiday because President cleveland intentionally cut the ties of this holiday due to a tragic event that had taken place in our United States history. As of the 19th century, the United states may day completely changed its meaning; it also changed its name. After the Industrial Revolution May day became known as International workers day.

The industrial revolution is a period of time when laborers were given poor working conditions. Workers were given hard work and long hours each day. As a result, thousands of men, woman, and children were dying each year. Many workers walked out of their businesses across the country to strike. These strikes grew in number and continued for several days. Suddenly, protests became violent. In fact, during a strike at the Hayday market, an unknown person threw a bomb into the crowds of workers and policemen. Many men in the protest were convicted of this crime to be hanged, but there wasn’t enough substantial evidence that they had committed this atrocity. After this devastation, despite the socialist or communist backgrounds, different governments around the world came together to recognize May first as the international workers day. However, President Cleveland cut ties with this holiday by moving labor day to September first. He did this to further the nation from the tragedy that had happened that day in the Hayday market.

Ironic, isn’t it, how the country that started an International holiday fails to celebrate, nor even acknowledge, the holiday within their culture. Whether families choose to recognize this day as May Day or International Workers Day, May first is a moment in our history that deserves to be observed.

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