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another side of ‘may day’

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maibaumIn many countries May 1 is celebrated as a public holiday in recognition of International Workers’ Day and the social and economic achievements of the labour movement. As a day of celebration it has ancient origins as it marks the end of winter in the Northern hemisphere.  As Europe became Christianized, pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations or were replaced by new Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. 

minerI remember as a child in Germany being taken by my father to the annual May Day gathering on the largest square of town. A former stable master and riding instructor in the army, dad was then working as a machinist helping his traumatized family make ends meet amidst cramped living quarters and rationed food supplies. Decked out in his one good suit complete with a red carnation on the lapel he was there in solidarity with thousands of post-war veterans and workers. To hear the speeches by socialist politicians and union organizers, he’d lift me to sit on his shoulders. 

DEU Demonstrationen 1.MaiToday’s news: Police in Berlin are braced for violence on Friday with several different groups, including trade unions, far-left parties and neo-Nazis all taking to the streets for demonstrations. In what has become something of a choreography of confrontation, the usually peaceful May Day street parties and concerts tend to give way to car-burning and stone-throwing as day turns into night. source: DER SPIEGEL


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