Back in antiquity May Day was the festival of the Roman Goddess of flowers. In a more secular version, particularly in Germanic countries, it became the dancing of the Maypole and crowning the Queen of May. It celebrated the centre point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, or the first day of summer.
The Queen of May is normally a virgin teenage girl, who plays a high profile role in the May Day parade. She is dressed-up in a white gown, representing purity and crowned with flowers. In ancient history, the May Queen was killed once the festivities were completed.
The Roman Catholic church declared May as the month of the Virgin Mary, with small baskets of sweets or flowers being left anonymously on neighbour’s doorsteps. May the 1st is also claimed as the Feast of St Philip and St James, who became the patron saints of all labourers.
Of course the banks had to get in on the act and made the 1st May another ‘bank holiday’.
Through the Act of Union between England and Scotland, the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed, on the 1st May in 1707.
International Worker’s Day, is also May 1st. Some name it their Labour Day, celebrating the struggle for the eight hour working day. This quickly became a worldwide celebration of the social and economic attainments of the labour movement. Many have used the day for demonstrations and political protest. That is provided you do not belong to the 54% of the world’s population that still live under the oppression of dictatorial regimes.
“Another day without staff”, grumble the employers of Vanuatu, a tropical island in the South Pacific.
“Another holiday. Let’s celebrate”, smile the fun loving Vanuatu people. A day to hire (if you happen to have a job) an amplifying system and music your way through the day. Forget about the neighbours. They should be celebrating also.
If you stop to ask 99% of the Vanuatu people, what they are celebrating, they wouldn’t have the vaguest idea. Some of the educated minority may answer, “Because it’s the first day of the month”. The rest just make the most of a day lazing around in the sun, waiting to go off to the Kava bar (a local variety of native pub) to down some shells of evil smelling Kava with their friends. Kava, unlike alcohol, makes the drinkers comatose, rather than firing them up. Unless of course they decide to blend it with alcohol.