May 1st is International Labor Day in China, or May Day if one goes by the terms of old. What does this mean? Simple: A day off.
May Day celebrations harken back to the days of yore. Early Europeans celebrated a number of deities May 1, which was seen as a halfway point between spring and summer. Christianity put a damper on the pagan celebrations and replaced them with Easter. The ancients held raucous celebrations, more about that latter.
May 1 is also known as International Labor Day. In many nations, it is a “workers’ holiday” commemorating Chicago’s Haymarket Massacre of 1886. Workers were shot and killed by police while striking for an eight-hour workday.
Until 2008, International Labor Day was a 7 seven day holiday in China. It was perfect: The halfway point of the school term. Two months done, two months left. Seven glorious days to travel in The Middle Kingdom, along with 1 billion other people.
China’s national holidays were changed in 2008, leaving May Day as a single day off. But, three more holidays were gained. Tomb Sweeping Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival, formerly folk celebrations, were each made a national holiday. The seven-day May Day holiday became four long weekends. With that, holidays in China became much like Canada.
International Labor Day is a national holiday in China, Nepal, Germany, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, and Hungary. Because of the May Day celebrations held in the former USSR and communist bloc countries, America celebrates Law Day or Loyalty Day on May 1. American legislators moved Labor Day to September in 1958. Canada also celebrates Labor Day in September, and Australia and New Zealand in late October.
I labor, so I’m pretty happy to have a holiday. Whether it’s honoring a nearly forgotten Roman goddess or nineteenth-century labor martyrs, I’m happy to have a day sans work. Given the raucous celebrations of old, I will spend the afternoon of May 1 at a local establishment taking part in another ancient ritual: Happy Hour. My colleagues and I will have our own raucous celebration, raising a pint to the Haymarket Four, and whichever deities we can remember as our memories become clouded with two-for-one malty beverages.
To all and sundry, Happy International Labour Day, or May Day!
Image: Go Kunming