1940s and 50s to present day
I loved May Day when I was little white haired girl in the 1940s. At school we cut various colors of crepe paper in long streamers and wound it around the volleyball pole. Each of us got a long streamer of crepe paper, ducked and dipped under and over and wove it around the pole, then stood back and admired all its pretty colors. We were so proud of ourselves. That is the only time my Mom would let us pick lilacs from her French lilac bush. The smell still lingers in my mind.
But first at school, we got to make May Day Baskets after we got through with arithmetic, spelling, writing, geography and history. In the afternoon, we cleared our desks and each got to choose the color of two pieces of construction paper. I always chose purple with a yellow handle. We learned how to cut, fold and paste our little baskets. I always made three: one for my mom, one for my grandma, and one for our neighbor. That was one of the days Mom would pick us up from school. Usually that was Dad's job. We would carefully get into the car so we would not mash our baskets. The first thing I would say to Mom was "Can I go pick lilacs for the baskets?", and she would always nod her head yes. That was the only time she would not tell us to go change our clothes right after school, because after we picked the lilacs, and put a ribbon on the basket handle, we would load back up in the car, to go hang the basket on my grandma's door. I would quietly sneak up and hang the pretty basket on the door knob, knock and then we were supposed to run and hide. I always hung around because I wanted to see the smile and surprise on grandma's face. The tradition is if they catch you hanging the basket on the door knob, you get a kiss. I love Grandma's kisses!
Mom always made cupcakes for us to give to Grandma and Grandpa and the neighbor, and when we go home we got one too. I always loved May first and I smile now just remembering how happy that day was. Flowers blooming, robins running around on the grass and the smell of lilacs. What more could a little girl ask for -- except maybe a chocolate cupcake with a mound of chocolate frosting.
How times have changed! I have asked my sisters and a few friends what they remember about May Day. They are all younger than I and they do not remember celebrating May Day. I stopped making May Day baskets after the 8th grade. When my kids were little, I used to take them to their grandma (my mom) on May 1, so they could give her flowers. Guess what the flowers were? Dandelions! Mom was so pleased and always put them in vase of water. When the kids saw the first dandelion, it always got picked and proudly brought into me to put in a vase of water. Usually David spied the first one.
Bob and I celebrate it by looking forward to seeing the first robin in the lawn. Then we say, "We should call Shirley De Vault and tell her we have a robin in the yard." When she was our smiling neighbor, she would call us and tell us she just saw her first robin in her yard. Somehow the robins stopped at her place first!
Here are some of the world wide celebrations of May Day.
Germany -- After WWII communist East Germany required all the workers to attend numerous demonstrations.
Ireland -- May Day has been celebrated in Ireland since pagan times and in latter times as Mary's day. Traditionally, bonfires were lit to mark the coming of summer and to banish the long nights of winter. Officially Irish May Day bank holiday is now on the first Monday in May. In modern times May Day is associated with anti-government rallies which are held every year on this date. Old traditions such as bonfires are no longer widely observed, though the practice still persists in some smaller communities.
United States -- Some unions and union locals in the United States -- especially in urban areas with strong support for organized labor -- have attempted to maintain a connection with more left-wing labor traditions through their own unofficial observances on May 1. Some of the largest examples of this occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when thousands of workers marched in May Day parades in New York's Union Square. Smaller far left groups have also tried to keep the May Day tradition alive with more radical demonstrations in such cities as New York and Seattle, without major union backing.
American Latino -- In 2006, May 1 was chosen by mostly Latino immigrant groups in the United States as the day for the Great American Boycott, a general strike of illegal immigrant workers and supporters to protest H.R. 4437, immigration reform legislation which they felt was draconian. From April 10 to May 1 of that year, millions of immigrant families in the U.S. called for immigrant rights, workers rights and amnesty for undocumented workers.
Russia -- May Day was celebrated illegally in Russia until the February Revolution enabled the first legal celebration in 1917. The following year, after the Bolshevik seizure of power, the May Day celebrations were boycotted by Mensheviks, Left Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchists. It became an important official holiday of the Soviet Union, celebrated with elaborate popular parade in the center of the major cities. The biggest celebration was traditionally organized on the Red Square, where the General Secretary of the CPSU and other party and government leaders stood atop Lenin's Mausoleum and waved to the crowds. Since 1992, May Day is officially called "The Day of Spring and Labour," and remains a major holiday.
Members of Occupy Wall Street plan to hold a General Strike in 2012.
My goodness! How times have changed! I still look forward to the first of May, robins and dandelions. But first the snow has to melt!
Thanks to my sister, Ginger and Wikipedia for all this information!