Friday 1st May . . . all sorts of things to think about, starting with
(Image Credit: Melbourne Protests)
If you see a history of May Day in the newspapers this year, it is most likely to recount the mystical, medieval origins of a pagan fertility festival. And though you may never have seen a maypole in your life, you will be assured that a ribboned piece of birchwood is the sign and sanction of May Day.
Yet this has little to do with the reason that 1 May is celebrated in Britain, or why it is an international holiday . . . . May Day is international workers day. As such, it is – in the words of Eric Hobsbawm – “the only unquestionable dent made by a secular movement in the Christian or any other official calendar”. And its past is more rowdy than is suggested by the imagery of Morris dancers serenely waving hankies and bells around.
The origin of our present holiday lies in the fight for an eight-hour working day, in which cause the leaders of the socialist Second International called for an international day of protest to be held at the beginning of May 1890. They did so just as the American Federation of Labour was planning its own demonstration on the same date. The UK protest actually took place on a Sunday, and in London alone attracted 300,000 protesters to Hyde Park.
Initially, May Day was intended to be a one-off protest, and in some ways quite a solemn affair. But it persisted amid a flourishing of trade unionism. The symbolism of the workers’ Easter, of rebirth and renewal, dramatised this experience of revival. And it developed a carnivalesque aspect. May Day did not merely enact internationalism and working class solidarity; it celebrated these things with the familiar paraphernalia of badges, flags, art, sporting events and heavy drinking.
This is the beginning of a fine article: I commend it to Pubsters.
So, let’s recreate some of that carnival atmosphere – but with moderate consumption of alcohol, of course.
We will also have our Friday raffle, lots of good music, and even though the article’s author quite rightly says May Day is much more than maypoles, let’s get those paws a-twitching and the ribbons a-winding!
(Image Credit: Life With Cats)