May Day

views updated May 29 2018


MAY DAY. Although May Day was observed as a rite of spring in Europe for centuries, it became associated in the late nineteenth century as a workers' holiday. In 1889 an International Socialist Congress selected the first day of May as a world labor holiday to show support for labor activism in the United States. After the Haymarket Square Riot in early May 1886, the labor activists around the world followed the lead of American workers and began to agitate for an eight-hour work day. May Day was first celebrated in 1890, and many countries continue the tradition today, though the United States does not, and only recognizes Labor Day in September.


Foner, Philip S. May Day: A Short History of the InternationalWorkers' Holiday, 1886–1986. New York: International Publishers, 1986.

Panaccione, Andrea, ed. The Memory of May Day: An IconographicHistory of the Origins and Implanting of a Workers' Holiday. Venice, Italy: Marsilio Editori, 1989.

Alvin F.Harlow/h. s.

See alsoHaymarket Riot ; Labor ; Socialist Movement .

May Day

views updated May 11 2018

May Day First day of May, traditionally celebrated as a festival, the origin of which may lie in the spring fertility rites of pagan times. The Roman festival of Flora, goddess of spring, was held from April 28 to May 3. In England, the festivities centred on the dance round the Maypole. In some countries, May Day is a holiday in honour of workers, and may be accompanied by a military display.

May Day

views updated May 18 2018

May Day • n. May 1, celebrated in many countries as a traditional springtime festival or as an international day honoring workers.