Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

According to Garrison Keillor:

Today is May Day, a celebration of the return of spring that goes back thousands of years in European traditions. Various May Day celebrations included the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, and the setting up of a decorated May tree, or Maypole, around which people danced.

May Day never developed a Christian equivalent. In order to celebrate the holiday, workers had to stay home from work against their employers' wishes. It became known as a people's holiday, and in 1889, a congress of world Socialist parties held in Paris voted to choose May 1, 1890, as a day of demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day.
While it is not an official holiday in America (as it is in many countries), the link between May Day and labor started in this country, with the Haymarket Riots.

And the reason for the riots? Workers were trying to establish an eight-hour work day. Most of those who rioted and were demanding this change in labor law were, by the way, immigrants. Not "illegal" immigrants, as that concept didn't exist in American law in the 19th century. But they were immigrants, and identified as such.

So when someone today worries that today's called boycott will do more harm than good, or erode some support for fair immigration laws, remember that people died to secure the concept of the 8 hour day.

And it started in Chicago; on May Day.

P.S. This is, if you didn't know, a recognized day by Congress. It is "Loyalty Day." I trust you are all being loyal Americans today. You can go here, to learn all you ever wanted to know about it. The irony is delicious.

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