What is May Day?

Celebrate spring, the international labor movement and/or immigration reform today.

May Day, which falls on May 1, but you're looking for a chance to dance around a Maypole in Sonoma County, you'll have to wait until Saturday.

That's when the Geyserville May Day Festival will be held at the Hoffman Picnic Grounds in Geyserville. The annual festivities have been going on since 1925.

The first of May also is a day when many celebrate workers and push for immigration reform. 

Historically, the day is a celebration of spring for many cultures throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union. The earliest May Day festivities appeared in pre-Christian times. Customary British celebrations—where much of the lore about May Day comes from—include dancing around a Maypole, crowning a May Queen and revelry.

There are few May Day traditions in the United States, though anonymously gifting "May baskets"—small  baskets of treats and/or flowers—to your neighbors is was a popular May Day act. It fell out of favor during the Cold War due to its Communist associations (keep reading).

May Day also a celebration of the international labor movement. It's a major holiday for workers in much of Central and South America, as well as Russia, though it's not official recognized in the United States. (Our Labor Day comes in September, and is usually synonymous with camping trips, sales and the start of the school year).

Still, unions and union locals in the US often have unofficial observances on May 1. The day commemorates a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday in Chicago in 1886, when an unidentified person threw a bomb at demonstrators and police opened fire, killing four people.

In recent years, May 1 has also become an iconic day for the immigration movement in the US.

Last year, high school students in Menlo Park skipped school to join a May Day rally. In Marin County, the day was marked by strikers shutting down ferry service in Larkspur and Sausalito, as well as nurses striking in Novato Community Hospital and a demonstration in San Rafael.

A May Day march for immigrants' and workers' rights through downtown Santa Cruz in 2010 morphed into a riot, damaging local businesses.

This year, May Day celebrations, rallies, and marches calling for immigration reform are planned in cities across the country, including Mountain View.

Anastasia L. Schuster May 01, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Growing up in Hawaii, May Day was a HUGE deal! I remember fondly every year when the 6th Grade class elected the May Day royal court. You had the king & queen and then a prince and princess representing each island. In each case the girl wore a beautiful holoku (traditional Hawaiian gown) in the color of each island i.e. yellow for Oahu, green for Moloka'i, etc. There would be a formal procession with a kahuna (Hawaiian priest) leading the way. The royal court would sit on the stage while all the kids from each grade and classroom would perform for them. Often it was hulas, though not always. It was a day I remember very fondly..."May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii"...or so the song goes...
Sandy Elliott May 01, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Hello The May Day Festival in Geyserville is on Sunday May 5th. Please post correction. Thanks


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