May Day Around the World

May Day Around the World

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The 1st of May is a national public holiday in many countries. Usually it is referred as as “International Workers’ Day”.

But is it only about work?

In ancient Italy, three thousand years ago, residents worshiped the goddess Maya, the patroness of fertility and the earth. It was she who became the culprit of the holiday. The last spring month was named after her, and on the first day people organized festivities.

In the early Middle Ages, Europe celebrated on the night of April 30 to May 1 the holiday of spring sowing. Those who were little interested in the harvest gathered on that night for a coven of witches and other dark magical forces –  c. As the church gained strength, Walpurgis Night was banned throughout Europe. As a result, until the end of the 19th century, the inhabitants of the Old World celebrated May Day only as the day of spring sowing.

The spring holiday is celebrated in different countries around the world in their own way. Let’s get acquainted with the most interesting ones.


Germany celebrates Walpurgis Night. on the night of April 30 to May 1, about 10 thousand witches, kikimors and sorcerers gathered at the foot of Mount Broken. According to German folk belief, it is on this night that witches gather on the top of the mountain and, together with Satan, begin the Sabbath. The popularity of Walpurgis Night is explained by the fact that in the 20th century it became a secular holiday. Therefore, for example, in schools, children draw and sculpt witches in two weeks. Traditional marches on May 1 in Germany are also arranged – trade unions and political parties hold demonstrations on this day.


The ancient Romans worshiped Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring, and there were Floria festivals dedicated to her. The goddess was represented by a small statue adorned with garlands. A procession of singers and dancers carried the statue past the sacred flowering tree. Later this festival was transferred to other countries. Today May 1st is known as the happiest day of the year in Italy. There are many flowers inside and around the temples. In Sicily, on May Day, everyone gathers meadow daisies, which, according to local beliefs, bring happiness.

In Italian May Day, its duality is clearly manifested: some Italians celebrate this day in the style of the first working parades, others follow the traditions that have come down from Ancient Rome. Such Italians do not spend a beautiful May day on processions, but sing serenades under the windows of their beloved girls. Another custom is the May Day tree. This is either a living tree planted specifically for the holiday, or a pillar decorated with garlands and flowers. Around the May Day tree they dance and sing, dance, fireworks. Sometimes the festivities can be overshadowed by the fact that on the night before someone dug up and carried away the May Day tree – this is also a tradition!


May 1 is an official public holiday in this country. The French were the first to talk about their rights, and on May 1, 1833, the government of the French Republic issued a decree on the rights of workers. Mass demonstrations are still taking place in France. May 1 in France is the feast of lilies of the valley, everyone gives each other bouquets of these fragrant spring flowers. This is the main attribute of the French May Day, like a carnation in Russia. The flower is supposed to be dried and stored for a whole year, until the next holiday. But not only lilies of the valley are given: as a sign of friendship and love, you can give a sprig of hawthorn, oak, poplar. Girls with a bad temper are given a holly, and lazy people are given an elderberry branch.


Swedes traditionally celebrate May 1 as the Day of Spring and Spring Sowing. The holiday was quite homely and cozy for a long time. People gathered in parks or suburban forests, sang songs, danced round dances, wove wreaths and jumped over fires. In our time, fireworks and fire shows have been added to bonfires and wreaths of wild flowers. 

Scotland and Wales

In Scotland and Wales, starting from the early Middle Ages, Beltane was celebrated – a religious holiday dedicated to the god of the sun and fertility, Belenes. On this day, two large bonfires were kindled, and domestic animals were led between them. It was believed that this would protect livestock from diseases and provide a rich offspring. People danced and jumped over fires to be free from sins and diseases. Beltane is still celebrated in Edinburgh, Scotland. About 12,000 people come to Calton Hill every year to watch the grandiose fire festival. The rest of the British on this day can go to a demonstration against the reduction of wages and pensions, usually peaceful.

Festivals, which originated in Italy, came to England in the Middle Ages. On the first day of May, the English country people got up at dawn to pick flowers. A tall maypole was set up in a clearing in the village. This tree was usually made from the trunk of a tall birch and decorated with bright wildflowers. The villagers danced and sang around him. The dancers wore colorful costumes with bells. Often the best girl in the village was chosen as May Queen. Sometimes the king of May was also chosen. These two people ran the dances and the entire festival.


The Indians of Canada have been celebrating Gopher Day on May 1 for centuries. Going to bed sober is considered a great sin. So just imagine the fun. Labor Day has been around for over a century in Canada, but Canadians prefer to use Labor Day as a holiday.


Until recently, May 1st was the start of one of the three “Golden Weeks”, when across the country the weekend lasted a whole week. Chinese people travel a lot these days. “Golden Weeks” appeared in China in 1999, but in 2007 the May week was canceled, as it negatively affected production and trade. But May 1 is still a public holiday.


Lei are the most beautiful branch garlands worn around the neck in Hawaii. Celebrating this Day of Garlands was invented by the poet Don Blanding in 1927. At the time, he worked for a newspaper in Honolulu, so the idea of ​​celebrating Garland Day on May 1 was soon known to all of Hawaii.


May 1 – Green Santiago, the holiday of lovers and flowers. Girls walk around crowned with flowers, accompanied by lovers who sing their praises.

Scandinavian countries

Here on Walpurgis Night they do not sleep. Fires are lit, dances are made, musical instruments are played, shots are fired to scare off trolls before cattle are pastured. According to Danish and Swedish folk beliefs, witches and demons fly to their gatherings on this night, and the fires prevent them from harming people.


This is where the Tulip Festival takes place. The central day of this festival is Bulb Sunday. In the villages, to this day, on May 1, it is customary to “distribute” boys and girls into pairs, and post a list of these pairs in a conspicuous place.

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