It’s the first of May! Break out the maypoles and daisy chains and floral headdresses, right?
Well, not so much. At least not in the U.S.
Ever since the Cold War began in the 1940s, May Day fell out of favor in the U.S. because it also happened to be a major holiday in Russia, where it's been a national holiday celebrating “The Day of Spring and Labor” since Soviet times.
But in many other countries, May Day is celebrated as some variation of “International Workers’ Day,” and it often carries varying degrees of official holiday status, depending on the country. Most countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America recognize International Workers’ Day. Even a few African countries such as Egypt and Libya have designated May 1 as either a public or paid holiday. In Germany, May Day is also an official public Labor Day holiday.
The U.K. and France saw some protests this year on May Day in response to continued austerity measures and disputed labor practices.
The countries that still celebrate May Day as it was originally intended are Germany, the U.K., and to a certain extent, Romania, where it goes by the name Arminden. In Germany and Austria, the raising of the maypole is a town-wide event in smaller communities. The night before, young men and women often leave tokens of affection in front of their paramours' homes.
Parts of the U.K. and Ireland still practice traditional garland ceremonies, for which young children weave flower garlands and sometimes enter into small competitions. In both the U.K. and Germany, May Day celebrations mark the ceremonial beginning of summer.
Let’s not forget those all-important upcoming holidays in May: May the Fourth, a holiday invented by us nerds to celebrate all things Star Wars; and Cinco de Mayo, otherwise known as the day Americans mistake for Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually in September.
And for good measure, here’s Vanessa Redgrave singing “The Lusty Month of May” from the screen adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s musical “Camelot.”