Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day

Today is May Day, International Workers’ Day.  It is a holiday here in Cameroon. 
Before the event, places were cleaned up and new ‘sidewalks” were cut into the grass.  In town there was a parade of workers from different companies/organizations.  I have to admit that I didn’t go.  I walked over to where it was to be, but was too early.  I didn’t want to stand around and wait – especially since parades aren’t really my thing.  So, sorry, no pictures.  I do know that organizations get matching shirts or outfits to march in the parade.  Many shops in town, though, were open – business as usual.
Also today, the regional bishop got a medal for having worked for 10 years.  There have been many people at his house (directly across from the guest house where I am) yesterday and today.  At one point they were cheering and really celebrating!  Now there is live music which I am listening to as I write. 
I got interested in the history of the holiday since it is not such a big thing in Pittsburgh/the US.  So I did a little Wikipedia research that you can benefit from.
May Day is related to Celtic and Germanic festivals that mark the cross-quarter days (May Day and November 1).  Early (pre-Christian) celebrations were for Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers.  Also, at that time, February 1 was the first day of spring and May 1 the first day of summer.  That is why June 25 (then, now 21), the solstice was called midsummer. 
Celebrations included crowning the May Queen and the day was later connected to the Virgin Mary.  People also dance around the may pole and leave small baskets of sweets and/or flowers anonymously on neighbors’ doorsteps. 
May 1 is now International Workers’ Day and is celebrated officially in more than 80 countries and unofficially in many more.  So how did that change happen?!?
In 1886 in Haymarket Square, Chicago police tried to disperse a group of people during a general strike for the eight-hour workday.  Someone threw a bomb.  Police reacted by firing on workers, killing dozens.  In 1889 in Paris there was a call for international demonstrations in 1890 to commemorate the Haymarket Affair.  It became an annual event.
In 1894 there were also May Day Riots in Cleveland, Ohio.  Unemployed workers rioted because they believed city officials hadn’t done enough after the Panic of 1893.  The Riots of 1894, along with the Haymarket Affair, brought about a series of discussions about the workforce in America and the depression.  In 1904 the International Socialist Conference encouraged all workers who could to stop work on May 1. 
for those who speak Arabic...
So, in my own celebration, I bought some cookies – which it turns out are from Tunisia.  They were great (although

a little sweeter than I prefer). I am, however, doing some work so that I can post this on May 1…
Happy International Workers’ Day!  (The US equivalent is Labor Day in September.)

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