May Day or Labour Day

In many countries, May Day is also Labor Day. This originates with the United States labor movement in the late 19th Century, and very much inspired by similar actions taken earlier in Canada. On May 1, 1886, unions across the country went on strike, demanding that the standard workday be shortened to eight hours. The organizers of these strikes included socialists, anarchists, and others in organized labor movements. Rioting in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on May 4th including a bomb thrown by an anarchist led to the deaths of a dozen people (including several police officers) and the injury of over 100 more.

The protests were not immediately successful, but they proved effective down the line, as eight-hour work days eventually did become the norm. Labor leaders, socialists, and anarchists around the world took the American strikes and their fallout as a rallying point, choosing May Day as a day for demonstrations, parades, and speeches. It was a major state holiday in the Soviet Union and other communist countries.

Labor Day is still celebrated on May 1 in countries around the world, and it is still often a day for protests and rallies. In recent years, these have often been targeted against globalization.

May 1st, often called May Day, just might have more holidays than any other day of the year. It’s a celebration of spring. It’s a day of political protests. It’s a neopagan festival, a saint’s feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it is a national holiday.

Pope Leon XIII and later Pie XI who were very concerned about the condition of workers in the emerging Industrial era gave a Christian dimension to the Labour Day by declaring that the day will be under the Patronage of St. Joseph, the carpenter, father of Jesus. The example of St. Joseph throws a new light to the dignity of labour. Model worker to be followed, according to the Christian teachings, St. Joseph’s work was not only his means to offer his labour for his own betterment and that of his family, the perfection of nature around him and for the progress of the community, also a means to be in union and contributing to the mission of Jesus. Hence the effort of labour becomes a prayer.

I asked a few people: what is the public holiday for according to you? One replied it is Labour Day: a day of rest for the workers. Another one said: Labour day: day for political rallies. None of them thought of the Labour Day as a day of celebration and thanks giving for the work that provides us our sense of usefulness and dignity. Even for me who am, so to say “retired” I do need to have this sense of usefulness, a purpose in life?

I would rather see today as a day of celebration organised by the work force to give themselves a sense of pride & dignity and to discuss their contribution to the betterment of our society.

Bonne Fete a tous!


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