May Day

 May 1 was celebrated around the world as May Day. Like every year, there were at least two important celebrations associated with it. One celebration was for the International Workers’ Day or Labor Day. Workers in many countries gathered around to express their unity and also voice their concerns. In Manila (capital of the Philippines), Hong Kong (China), Jakarta (capital of Indonesia), and Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia), people asked for better working conditions, higher salaries, and more jobs. In Moscow (capital of Russia) and London (capital of the UK), many people gathered and marched. The government of Turkey had said that protests could not be held on May 1 in an area of Istanbul called Taksim Square. However, rallying crowds tried to make their way to the Square and were stopped by the police.

Why did May 1 become a day to celebrate the workers of the world? On that day in 1886, large rallies by workers started in various cities in the United States to shorten the working day. The rallies lead to some riots in Chicago, USA which resulted in the death of several workers as well as policemen. In 1889, an international labor organization decided in Paris, France to choose May 1, 1890 as the day to commemorate the workers’ fight for an eight-hour work day across the globe. Since then, May Day has become an annual event celebrated by several countries in the world.

May Day is also celebrated as the first day of summer in many cultures. A tradition in the United Kingdom is for people to dance around Maypoles which are wooden poles decorated with flowers and ribbons. In France, some people present their loved ones with stems of lilies of the valley (a type of flower). Some Americans hang a basket of flowers on a neighbor’s door knob. A German tradition is for the people of a village to steal the Maypole of other villages.

Also, on May 1, a sculpture called “Anything to Say” was unveiled in Berlin (the capital of Germany). The sculpture represents “right to know” and “freedom of speech”. It has 3 statues of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning. Assange (of Australia) is the founder of the website WikiLeaks, which published confidential documents belonging to various countries’ governments, upsetting some governments. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, UK since 2012. Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador. Manning (of United States) leaked US military documents to WikiLeaks and is in prison in the United States. Snowden (of United States) disclosed information about how the American National Security Agency spies on citizens of many nations including the United States. He is wanted by the US government and has been given asylum by Russia, where he currently lives.

Did you know?

If you say “Mayday” three times, it becomes a call for help. Mayday is often used over radios by boats and ships, for instance, to indicate that they are in trouble and need help. This word, though, has nothing to do with May Day! It is believed to originate from “M’aider” which means “help me” in French.

Image Credits: http://www.anythingtosay.com/ for the statue’s image, http://www.holtlaborlibrary.org/ for May Day protest image, http://www.getaltruism.org/ for May Day dancing image

Sources: http://www.usatoday.com/, http://www.phnompenhpost.com/, http://www.euronews.com/, http://www.aljazeera.com/, http://www.anythingtosay.com/, http://www.biography.com/, http://www.frenchmoments.eu/, http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/, http://www.bavaria.us/, http://www.npr.org/, http://www.nmmc.co.uk/