May Day: A History

The first of May is more than an embracing of summer, a welcoming of May flowers. Today we celebrate the day as a hybrid of the holiday’s origins and the story it took on following an industrial revolution in Chicago. We can follow its path through the centuries and the continents, to tell you a bit more about the May Day we celebrate every year.

Pagan Origins

May Day was originally an ancient pagan holiday celebrating the start of summer – known as Beltaine in Gaelic. American and European culture has taken on a more secular celebration of the holiday, involving maypoles, May queens and flower crowns (rather than rituals and religious practices). A celebration of the southern hemisphere’s entrance into the summer season, our neighbors in the northern hemisphere find they have less to celebrate, as they enter into their chilly winter weather.

Mayday! Mayday!

Many wonder if there is perhaps another history to May Day– a call for help in emergency? The plane going down, the pilot yelling “may day, may day” into the radio? In fact, the cry for help instead finds its origin in the French m’aidez, or “help me”.

Labor Rights

Consequence of industrialization and the rise of the working class, 1880 was the year in which International Worker’s Day came to be — on the same day as May Day. The day was chosen to align with the anniversary of the deaths of four peaceful protesters shot by police at the Haymarket Affair in Chicago. Today, protests and rallies occur on May 1, as workers and unions fight for rights. As in the 19th century, protests are not always peaceful, and can become violent. Others find themselves amongst summer May Day celebrations of colorful floats and outdoor concerts.

However you decide to celebrate your May Day holiday, a happy May Day, Beltaine, and International Worker’s Day from all of us at BMR Insurance! Insurance questions coming up as we head into the summer season? Give us a call for a free quote at 714-838-1911.

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