May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more. In Greece, it is celebrated as a workers’ strike. So, naturally, everyone goes to the countryside and… erm… makes themselves a May wreath to hang on their doors.
It is just as confusing a holiday in the States, as Natalie Zarrelli of Atlas Obscura reminds us. For many, it celebrates the ancient Celtic day of flowers and rebirth, with laughing children dancing around the maypole. But May Day also has a revolutionary past. The International Workers’ Day of May Day, the holiday’s full name, originated in the United States in 1886 as a radical response to abusive employers, for something many people take for granted today: the eight-hour workday.
A Nineteenth-Century Affair
Nineteenth-century employment conditions were harsh: workers often performed dangerous tasks while under-fed and under-slept, working from 10-16…
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