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May Day as the Labor Day

Link with the Labor & communist celebration.
Why this day? Learn about the American root of the world wide celebration

The Secular significance of the Day:

Over the past century, May Day came to acquire new meanings. Some of them have even become quite opposed to the tradition of lighthearted joyfulness with Maypoles, Morris dance, and bathing in the May dew. Strange though, they still revolve round the old significance of the day. That is, a day of feast and festival in the month of Summer. Yet for which there is no such church service as that of Christmas, Easter, or . This is why it has always been a strong secular festival. And the same significance also helped working people in picking it up as the day to celebrate as a day off their work. By the 20th century May Day has come to be regarded a red letter day and has become a festival of the laboring class in Socialist countries.
But the secular significance alone has not made the Day a memorable day to observe by the labor. The labor link to this day is rather highlighted by a story of labor strife and bloodshed.

The American root:

And it is all rooted to the labor movement in United States during the 19th century. Then the country had been witnessing labor unrests and agitations for over a century. But mostly in an unorganized manner. In the 19th century it became more organized with the workers becoming worried over their position in the mainstream society. During the 1860s the Knights of Labor gave a new dimension to this organized labor movement.

From Labor Day to May Day - the shift:

In 1884 the group held a parade on the first Monday of September. And then it passed a resolution to hold all future parades on that day designating it as Labor Day. The Knights of Labor soon came to be regarded as the most dominant of all labor unions in the US.

However, things changed. The year 1886 was a troubled one in labor relations. There were nearly 1,600 strikes, involving about 600,000 workers, with the eight-hour day being the most prominent item in the demands of labor. About half of these strikes were called in on May Day.

Now, some of those strikes were successful. But the failure of others and internal conflicts between skilled and unskilled members led to a decline in the Knights' popularity and influence.

The most serious blow to the unions came from a tragic occurrence. And this was what made the May 1 as an important day in the history of Labor Movement in America. Though it did not take place on May Day itself, but it came as a consequence whose origin was laid on that day.

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The mayhem:

It was one of the many strikes called for May Day in 1886. And it was against the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago. The air was already heated with inflammatory speeches and debates. On May 3 a fighting broke out along the picket lines. And, when police intervened to restore order, several strikers were injured or killed. Union leaders called a protest meeting at Haymarket Square for the evening of May 4; but, it was there yet another gory incident took place as a result of a bomb explosion. Seven policemen were killed and many were injured. Eight unionists, alleged to be responsible for the incident, were arrested, tried, and convicted of murder. Four of them were hanged, and one committed suicide.

Following this tragedy the public sympathy with organized labors went down. The Knights of Labor did never gain ground after this. Though strikes went on to be held. Some other unions came to the forefront. One of them was an association of French Socialists, called the Second International. It was in 1889, they declared the May Day devoted to labor and its problem. They renamed it "Labor Day" and it was the occasion for important political demonstrations. In France, the Maypole had already regarded as the symbol of French Revolution. And perhaps the French union was partly motivated by that spirit behind the day.

The Socialist celebration:

But the idea really gained ground in other parts of the world with the International Socialist congress of 1889 in Paris. It was the congress that designating it as an international labor day. While in the United States and Canada, Labor Day still continues to be observed on the first Monday in September, rest of the world observes it on May 1 or other dates.

At present, the May Day connection, best known outside the Maypoles, is the celebration of the Russian Communists. It was in the 1920s, they inaugurated the May Day parades. It was a major holiday in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries, and also in many other parts of the world. Even in today's Russia it is an annual holiday devoted to the recognition of working people's contribution to society.A unique display of the most modern weapons and seemingly endless troops of soldiers is held in Moscow, the capital of Russia on this day. This is how May Day, once mainly a spring festival, has become a festival of the laboring class in Socialist countries.

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