What image does May Day conjure up for you? My mind first jumped to workers’ rights and a quick Google search led me to this post about the significance of the Haymarket Riot. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers across the country staged a walk-out and general strike demanding an eight-hour work day. Violence erupted several days later at Chicago’s Haymarket Square, when a bomb was thrown into an assembly of worker sympathizers and the police responded with gunfire. This resulted in serious casualties and injuries on both sides.
This event, complex and often misinterpreted, is considered by some to be a tipping point for the worldwide labor movement. It also set off a “national wave of xenophobia, as scores of foreign-born radicals and labor organizers were rounded up by police.”
An event that took place 132 years ago sounds like it was pulled from yesterday’s news headlines.
In sharp contrast, The Festival of Flora, honoring the Roman Goddess of flowers was the earliest May Day celebration during the Roman Republic era. Other European pagan cultures commemorated this date with rituals like dancing around the maypole and the giving of “May baskets” — small baskets of sweets or flowers left anonymously on a neighbor’s doorstep.
Traditional English rituals carry on to this day and include the crowning of the May Queen and the staging of festivals honoring fertility and the beginning of spring. The bard nailed it in this quote:
“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” How right you are, Mr. Shakespeare, Sir!
I began my day honoring both traditions at Loading Dock Raleigh, a diverse, welcoming coworking and collaborative workspace, with two inspiring female entrepreneurs. We spent an hour in our “creative collision” supporting each other’s journeys and sharing stories of change, challenge, growth and transformation. And yes, we shared “May baskets” of flowers!
Happy May Day — May this month reward you with the best of work and play. Honor both!