May 1st or May Day – What’s in a name?
May 1st, or May Day, is International Workers’ Day. The history of this day harks back to the 19th century and to protests in Chicago that called for the legal establishment of the eight-hour workday. In some countries May Day honors labor and workers’ rights, and in other countries it celebrates the coming of spring. Those celebrating the former will march and those marking the latter will dance, sing and consume lots of alcohol. Here are some interesting examples of how this day is celebrated throughout the world.
May 1st Celebrations throughout the World
• May in Hawaii – May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. A lei is usually made of flowers that are strung together, is worn around the neck and presented as a symbol of affection, peace, love or honor. A Lei Queen is selected based on her lei making skills, hula dance proficiency and Hawaiian language fluency.
• Morris dances and queen of the day – In Britain each region has its own May Day tradition. It usually involves dancing traditional Morris dances around decorated maypoles and crowning a May Queen.
• Singing and flowers – on May Day in Italy you can see troupes of flower-adorned musicians going from door to door and singing in exchange for small gifts such as eggs and wine.
• One country two celebrations – Canada, one of the countries that led the labor protests in the 19th century, celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday in September, except in the province of Quebec where trade unions and labor protests are celebrated on May Day.
• The first to identify – New Zealand workers were the first in the world to establish labor organizations and to demand the right for an eight-hour workday. As far back as 1840 the carpenter Samuel Parnell won in a trial in which he demanded to work eight hours a day, thus setting an important precedent. Labor Day has been celebrated on the island since 1890, on the fourth Monday in October.
• An early celebration – In Sweden and Finland the first of May is celebrated as International Workers’ Day, while traditional festivities of students and spring are celebrated one day before – from April 30th to May 1st. In Sweden these celebrations include a strawberry and champagne breakfast, while in Finland festivities are wild and include extensive drinking.
What’s the origin of the expression?
A journey to the origins of expressions we all know: where they came from and in what context were they created.
Rule of Thumb
Commonly held folk etymology holds that in 18th century England, when wife beating was allowed under English law, a Judge, Sir Francis Buller, ruled that a man is legally permitted to beat his wife provided he uses a stick no wider than his thumb. Thankfully, things have changed in the 200 and some years since that ruling, including #METOO that hopefully is here to stay.