Celebrate International Workers’ Day

Posted on May 1, 2019 | 0 comments

Celebrate International Workers’ Day

On May 1st, millions of people around the globe will celebrate International Workers’ Day. From Cuba to South Africa to the Philippines, cities host parades, celebrations, and demonstrations. Employers around the world are required to provide employees with paid leave May 1 in recognition of this holiday. Some places revel around traditional bonfires, while other areas prepare for protests regarding immigrant and migrant rights, racial justice, women’s rights, and health care, to name a few.

Different countries celebrate in different ways. In Germany, towns erect their May poles and try to steal their neighbors’ poles. Maifeuers (bonfires) are lit and celebrators encouraged to leap over them. In Italy, celebrations include wearing traditional dress and electing a Madonna Primavera. Bulgarian legend says the King of all snakes emerges on May 1 and excuses all workers so they don’t get “bit” while laboring in the fields. France, famous for its annual demonstrations and parades, also commemorates this day by giving Lily of the Valley flower to friends and family members. Until 2008, China celebrated with three days.  Throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe, rallies, demonstrations, and parades are held by political, labor, and other non-governmental groups.


The United States is one of the few countries that does not celebrate International Workers’ Day, even though the celebration of labor on May 1st stems from an incident that took place in the US in 1886. On this day, the eight-hour work day was imposed as the new standard. Some businesses resisted the change, prompting workers in Chicago (many of whom were immigrants) to strike in protest. Three days later, at a labor rally in Haymarket Square, a bomb exploded, killing 11 people. In the following years, socialists and other labor activists in Europe took this date to honor those who died and a traditional was born.


While many celebrations on this day are closely tied to welcoming spring after a long winter, political issues can often create tensions and protesters have clashed with local authorities. Berlin’s May Day became notorious due to the numerous rallies turning violent. In 1987, the holiday was marred when a workers demonstration turned violent. Cars were burned and businesses were looted throughout the area. Authorities in France and other countries are working to ensure this year’s demonstrations are peaceful in the face of intensified emotions regarding immigration, economic, and environmental issues.

If you are lucky enough to be one of the millions enjoying a day off to celebrate International Workers’ Day, make sure to appreciate the local charm of your host country as well as listen to the issues and concerns represented in demonstrations and rallies.


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