May Day vs International Workers Day

may day

May 1st is usually a normal date for most Americans. But, around the world (and in Hawaii) celebrations are taking place to celebrate spring and partake in a festival called May Day. However, this event also marks International Workers Day: an occasion for marches and barbecues. In today’s blog, we’ll talk about the differences between these two holidays that share the same date. 

What is May Day?

Grab your maypole and learn how this ancient festival came to be. 

Its Origins

Originally, May Day was two different celebrations that honoured the Roman Gods. Floralia was multiple event observance of Flora, the roman goddess of flowers. Praising Dionysus and Aphrodite was Maiouma (which occurred every three years) .

Opening with theatre performances, Floralia included the release of goats and hares, the pelting of crowds with beans, and concluded with competitive events and a sacrifice to Flora. Wearing multi-coloured clothes was also customary. Flora was one of the most ancient goddess of Roman religion and represented flowers, vegetation, and growth. 

Known as the Mysteries of Dionysus and Aphrodite, Maiouma was a nocturnal dramatic festival. Spanning 30-days, this celebration included banquets, offerings and all-night revels. The government footed the bill. Dionysus represented the gift of the vine and theatre. While, Aphrodite represented love and beauty. 

In the following centuries, other cultures adopted May Day traditions. Some honoured Saints while others partook in rituals to protect their stock and produce. Since around the 18th century, Roman Catholics witness May Day as a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, as a counterpoint to International Workers Day, this date was officially adopted in 1955. 

Nowadays, May Day is about welcoming in this pre-summer month. Dancing around the maypole and crowing a Queen of May is amongst some of the festivities. Sometimes, there is the giving of “May baskets” that are anonymous gifts containing sweets and flowers. 

May Day in Other Countries

What is the Competing Holiday?

International Workers Day also falls on May Day . The Marxist International Socialist Congress established it in 1889. Wanting to create a great international demonstration for demands of eight-hour work schedules, the date would host rallies and marches. Consider it a lot like Labor Day. North America celebrates this event on the first Monday in September.

International Workers Day is one of most important holidays in communist countries such as China, North Korea, and Cuba. Their parades often include displays of military medals, machines, and soldiers. 

Regardless of whether it’s viewed as an ancient ritualistic festival or a celebration of workers, May Day is regarded as a public holiday by most countries in the world. Culminating in the first Monday of May often being a time when schools, offices, and banks are closed. 

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.

Lydia is a Gooroo Courses Tutor at Gooroo, a tutoring membership and online learning platform that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers math, English, ESL, Spanish tutoring, and more.