Tuesday, 1 May 2012

My thoughts of May Day

Once upon a time, the earth was blanketed by a broad mantle of forests. As late as Caesar's time a person might travel through the woods for two months without gaining an unobstructed view of the sky. The immense forests of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America provided the atmosphere with oxygen and the earth with nutrients.

 The origin of May Day is to be found in the Woodland Epoch of History.

In Europe people honored the woods in many ways. With the leafing of the trees in spring, people celebrated "the fructifying spirit of vegetation,"  They did this in May, a month named after Maia, the mother of all the gods according to the ancient Greeks, giving birth even to Zeus.
The Greeks had their sacred groves, the Druids their oak worship, the Romans their games in honor of Floralia. In Scotland the herdsman formed circles and danced around fires. The Celts lit bonfires in hilltops to honor their god, Beltane. In the Tirol people let their dogs bark and made music with pots and pans. In Scandinavia fires were lit and the witches came out.
Everywhere people "went a-Maying" by going into the woods and bringing back leaf, bough, and blossom to decorate their persons, homes, and loved ones with green garlands. Outside theatre was performed with characters like "Jack-in-the-Green" and the "Queen of the May." Trees were planted. Maypoles were erected. Dances were danced. Music was played. Drinks were drunk, and love was made. Winter was over, spring had sprung.

Queen Guinevere's Maying


This was described in "The Court of Love" in 1561
(often attributed to Chaucer, but not actually written by him):

And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.

Convallaria Majalis   -  "Maigloeckchen"  - Lily of the Valley

 The first of May - often called  May Day - a celebration of Spring,
a neopagan festival, a saint's feast day, 
 and also a day for organised labour,
therefor it is in many countries a national holiday.


May Day  -  the Real Labor Day - Arbeitertag

In many European countries, May Day is now celebrated as Labor Day.
This originates with the United States labor movement in the late 19th Century.

In the nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day.
Working conditions were severe nd it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions.
Death and injury were commonplace at many work places,
and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel.
Working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay,
but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able 
to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday.

On May 1, 1886, unions across the country went on strike,
demanding that the standard workday be shortened to eight hours.

 Rioting in Chicago's Haymarket Square 


May Day Since 1886
Lucy Parsons, widowed by Chicago's "just-us," was born in Teas. She was partly Afro-American, partly native American, and partly Hispanic. She set out to tell the world the true story "of one whose only crime was that he lived in advance of his time." She went to England and encouraged English workers to make May Day an international holiday for shortening the hours of work. Her friend, William Morris, wrote a poem called "May Day":

They are few, we are many: and yet, O our Mother,
Many years were wordless and nought was our deed,
But now the word flitteth from brother to brother:
We have furrowed the acres and scattered the seed.
Win on then unyielding, through fair and foul weather,
And pass not a day that your deed shall avail.
And in hope every spring-tide come gather together
That unto the Earth ye may tell all your tale.

by Abram Jefimowitch Archipow


When the industrial revolution first came to Britain and the U.S., there was a high demand for labor. Families quickly migrated from the rural farm areas to the newly industrialized cities to find work. Once they got there, things did not look as bright as they did. To survive in even the lowest level of poverty, families had to have every able member of the family go to work. This led to the high rise in child labor in factories. Children were not treated well, overworked, and underpaid for a long time before anyone tried to change things for them.

The treatment of children in factories was often cruel and unusual, and the children's safety was generally neglected. The youngest children, who were not old enough to work the machines, were commonly sent to be assistants to textile workers. The people who the children served would beat them, verbally abuse them, and take no consideration for their safety. Both boys and girls who worked in factories were subject to beatings and other harsh forms of pain infliction. One common punishment for being late or not working up to quota would be to be "weighted." An overseer would tie a heavy weight to worker's neck, and have them walk up and down the factory aisles so the other children could see them and "take example." This could last up to an hour. Weighting could lead to serious injuries in the back and/or neck. Punishments such as this would often be dispensed under stringent rules. Boys were sometimes dragged naked from their beds and sent to the factories only holding their clothes, to be put on there. This was to make sure the boys would not be late, even by a few minutes.

In the time of the Industrial Revolution, the children of the families who moved to the crowded cities had their work situation go from bad to worse. In rural areas, children would have worked long hours with hard work for their families farms, but in the cities, the children worked longer hours with harder work for large companies. Harsher treatment, fewer rewards and more sickness and injury came from poorly regulated child labor. 
Child labor today is still apart of many economies. 

Child labor in factories - more:    here

The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we'll end up fighting
for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.


Leigh Hunt, the English essayist of the 19th century, wrote that May Day is "the union of the two best things in the world, the love of nature, and the love of each other." Certainly, such green union is possible, because we all can imagine it, and we know that what is real now was once only imagined.


A bunch of "Maigloeckchen" for all of you!

please visit Marsha's blog for our special monthly post
to read more
 Thoughts for the first of May


Update - 15:00

A sign from heaven! 

After weeks of constant rain: suddenly sunshine, blue sky - just right for today, the First of May!




...and the tulips standing straight - ready for the May parade....
( :-)




Happy May Day!


  1. A wonderfully informative post - I loved it. We have come a long way haven't we!
    Happy May Day!

  2. Really interesting post ... thanks. May Day greetings to you. M x

  3. Beautiful post Karin. Happy May Day!. ox, Gina

  4. What a lovely May Day post and thank you for the time you spent gathering the information. Beautiful photographs!

  5. What a lovely and informative post. Thank you so much for taking the time to gather all this information.
    Wishing you May Day greetings.

  6. And I am happy to see the sun is shining on you for the first of May!

  7. Wonderful and interesting post!

    Have a sunny week!
    Lieber Gruß!
    ♥ Franka

  8. I think we should still celebrate May Day. If only for the blessings of our Earth.
    This is the reason I am so in love with all of the participants of "By Invitation Only"...each of you, sharing a common theme, produce the most amazingly brilliant & thoughtful posts, posts which take a huge amount of time and thought. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to know each one of you.

  9. Oh WOW !!!! What a wonderful post about May Day, accompanied by the most beautiful photographs. It must have taken you ages to put this one together but it was well worth it.
    Happy May Day to you and yours and many thanks for your lovely comment today. XXXX

  10. Such a beautiful post...I can see a lot of care and thought went into it...beautifullly done!

  11. Karin...the love of nature, the love of each other...what we should all aspire to! Such a beautiful, beautiful post ! N.xo

    1. Wow Karin you really taught me something I didn't know some of this history, interesting read. Happy 1st of May!


  12. Gerechtigkeit lässt unsere Welt erst schön werden!

    Danke für diesen besonderen Beitrag!


  13. It finally stopped raining here too and the sun is out!
    I linked you in my post today with a thanks for the Versatile Blogger Award earlier in the year - better late than never!

  14. Karin, This is the most amazing post! so beautiful, yet so sad in some parts.
    Your words sent shivers down my spine, I almost felt like I was looking at a past life
    through your post.
    Beautiful in every way, thank you, thank you.
    As you know here in Australia we are opposite to you and are about to go into Winter
    and the days are short and getting cold. I have a huge tree outside my studio, maybe 120 years old,
    it drops all it's leaves all over the courtyard and drive every year and they blow into the back of the shop, I love it,
    it talks to me and it's a simple reminder of just how amazing our beautiful Mother Earth is.
    xxxx Coty

  15. What another amazing post Karin, you are really on a roll right now!!
    Thank you for all that you share and all of the inspiration...