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A Brief History of May Day

Claire Talbert, Legal Assistant

Spring has sprung! While a lot of us in the United States are currently suffering from those pesky seasonal allergies, feeling the warm sun on our face and seeing blooming flowers on our morning commute revitalizes our spirit after a brisk winter. May Day is a holiday recognized on May 1st by countless cultures around the world. May Day signifies the beginning of new life and the return of warm weather!

Coinciding with the return of warm weather is also the return of higher serotonin levels for humans. Serotonin is a vital hormone that regulates our mood, stress, and anxiety levels. We produce more serotonin when exposed to higher levels of sunlight, which explains our improved moods in the spring! The next time you’re on break at work, take a walk for a few minutes in the sun to reenergize. So May Day also promotes our overall well-being!

The first day of May is important for several reasons. May Day is connected to labor rights in the United States and is also referred to as International Workers Day. May Day recognizes the work of labor protestors in 1886 who opposed unfair labor practices. One result of these protests was the reduction of the 12-hour workday to eight hours. Many laws were also added and amended to further improve workers’ welfare. As you celebrate May Day, be thankful for our shorter workdays.

Including the United States, 60 countries in the world celebrate May Day with their own traditions and customs. It is known as Lei Day In Hawaii, and Hawaiians honor the aloha spirit by gifting each other with leis made of beautiful flowers. In England during the Middle Ages, maypoles were constructed as part of the festivities during May Day to celebrate fertility. Even in our current times, these iconic poles are popular additions to folk festivals. People attach colorful ribbons to the pole and their dance weaves the ribbons into a beautiful pattern. May Day is also a Celtic holiday known as Belthane. In Ireland, this day is celebrated by singing, dancing, and decorating houses with yellow May flowers.

Regardless of how you decide to celebrate May Day this year, be sure to take time to reflect on your happiness and well-being. Prioritize yourself during this celebration of new beginnings. Take a vacation. Spend your weekends outside in the sun. Plant some flowers with a friend to brighten your day. As the days get longer, there are endless possibilities to enjoy Spring. While each country celebrates May Day in their own ways, the essence of May Day has a universal definition: Welcome Spring with open arms and enjoy the little things in life!