Sociology Index

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May Day

May Day, in medieval and also modern Europe, was for the celebration of the return of spring. May Day originated in ancient agricultural rituals, and the Greeks and Romans held such festivals. May Day included the crowning of a May king and queen, and the setting up of a decorated May tree, or Maypole, around which people danced. Such rites originally was intended to ensure fertility for crops, for livestock and humans. The Puritans of New England considered the celebrations of May Day to be licentious and pagan, and the holiday never became an important part of American culture. In the 20th century, May 1 became associated with the international holiday honouring workers and the labour movement.

In 1889, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers' Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. Though International Workers' Day is also called "May Day", but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day. In Toronto, on the morning of 1 May, various Morris Dancing troops from Toronto and Hamilton gather on the road by Grenadier Cafe, in High Park to "dance in the May". The dancers and crowd then gather together and sing traditional May Day songs such as Hal-An-Tow and Padstow.

The longest continually observed May Day in the British Commonwealth is held in the city of New Westminster, British Columbia. There, the first May Day celebration was held on 4 May 1870. May Day was also celebrated by some early European settlers of the American continent. In some parts of the United States, May baskets are made. These are small baskets usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone's doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away. - Weeks, Lincoln (30 April 2015). "A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day."