What are we celebrating?
At 1st of May in 1856, demonstrations were held in Australia to introduce the eight-hour day. Due to this, strikes were called in North America on May 1, 1886, as well as the introduction of the eight-hour day. In some cases, twelve-hour day at low pay was common until then. During the following days, there were deaths and injuries in Chicago in clashes with police.
In memory of the victims, 1st of May 1889, was proclaimed as the labor movement’s day of struggle. As early as 1890, there were strikes and demonstrations all over the world on May 1st. In the 20th century, May Day became a public holiday as Labor Day in many states around the world.
In the period of socialism, this day was considered an “International Fighting and Holiday of the Working Perals for Peace and Socialism” in socialist states such as the GDR and the USSR. Its symbol was the red carnation.
Today there are numerous political rallies around the world on May Day to strengthen workers rights. They are organized by social democratic, communist and socialist parties.
In Berlin, Labor Day is notorious for the regular riots surrounding the May Day demonstrations in Kreuzberg. Violent clashes in left-wing demonstrations also occur again and again in other German cities.
Regardless of the demonstrations of the labor movement, it’s a rite to set up a maypole. This rite is particularly common in southern Germany and Austria. But also in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland, parts of Switzerland and even in East Friesland, the May tree setting is well known.
The setting up is often accompanied by a village or city festival with traditional music, beer and plenty of food. In some cases, the maypole’s, which are often well over 10 meters high, are still set up as before with long rods and muscle strength. In other areas, the volunteers help fire brigades with the crane or the rotary ladder.