May Day is on the first day of May. It originally comes from a very old pagan festival. People danced and sang and asked the gods to provide them with a good year. Nowadays it celebrates the beginning of summer.
In many countries Worker’s Day is celebrated on May 1.
The historical roots of this day takes us back to Chicago in 1886:
Militant unionists wanted to secure an eight-hour working day and so started a strike. On May 3rd, one person was killed and several injured as police intervened to protect strikebreakers from strikers. In response to this violence, a mass meeting was convened at Haymarket Place the next day to protest against police brutality. When police officers arrived to disperse the crowd a bomb was thrown by someone who was never identified. It killed 7 policemen and injured 60 others. The police retaliated and fired back at the demonstrators, killing more than 12 people. This incident became known as the Haymarket Riot.
Sculpture by Mary Brogger (2004) in Haymarket Place
Eight leaders were taken to trial and condemned: 4 were eventually hanged, 1 committed suicide and 3 remained in prison till 1893, when they were pardoned by the governor of Illinois.
May Day was designated as an international worker’s day by the International Socialist congress of 1889, a day to remember the struggles of workers who were killed in their fight for better wages and improved working conditions.
May Day is recognized as Law Day in the USA. In Canada and USA, Worker’s day or Labour Day is commemorated on the first Monday of September.
Note: Mayday is also an international radio signal used by ships and aircraft when they are in danger . It is taken from the French “venez m’aider”- come and help me, which has a similar sound.