Why are we all on holiday today? A brief look at the origin of the May Day

Most of us welcomed today as a much needed extension to our weekend. Having the day off on the first of May is something all of us look forward to. However, the significance behind the origin of this holiday is something far from pleasant.

66 countries in the world celebrate May Day as an official holiday. But, the country where May Day actually began doesn’t give it as much recognition as we’d think it would.

When and where did May Day begin?

Chicago, USA 1886.

Commonly known as the Haymarket affair, a massive demonstration was carried out by the working men and women of the USA demanding an 8 hour work day. The demonstration was anchored around Haymarket Square in Chicago.  At that time, 16 hour work days were considered normal. There was no legislation put in place that regulated the working hours of an individual, while death and injury were common in most work places. Certain professions only gave people life expectancy as low as their early twenties.  With socialism and the power it gave to the working class becoming an attractive idea, people decided to move towards this better option in order to get over their struggles as a working community.

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Thus, the demonstration was planned and carried out by a number of movements, with over quarter of a million workers joining the mission to take over the control that was safely tucked away by the employers.

Even though this event lead the way to the freedom that we all enjoy as workers, significant conflict arose between the police and those involved in the demonstration, leading to a large number of deaths and destruction.

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In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared that, in commemoration of the Haymarket affair, May 1 would be an international holiday for labor, now known in many places as International Workers’ Day.

What else does May Day Celebrate?

While the commemoration of the International Workers’ Day is what we Sri Lankans recognize as May Day, many other nationalities celebrate this day as a day of joy and peace. In some countries, it is viewed as a day of rebirth. It marks the arrival of Summer according to the pagan tradition. Common things seen in May Day celebrations in such countries include Maypole dancing, crowing May King and Queen and Morris Dancing.


Should May Day mean more to us?

May Day rallies and demonstrations have been age old traditions in Sri Lanka. However, do these things actually mean anything to us? Are we aware of the actual importance of this day and make a better effort to appreciate the freedom that we enjoy today as workers?

At Save Your Monkey we constantly strive to ensure a protected Sri Lanka and believe in the importance of empowering one another to live a fulfilling life. On this day we appreciate all the hardworking men and women of this country and look forward to enriching their lives through our simple solutions in the years to come.

Let us know what you think May Day should really mean to us as Sri Lankans, and how you are planning to spend it today!