This day has a lot of history – and it’s historical significance varies according to whom you talk. So here are some of these events connected to the beginning of the best month in which to be born (Note, I was born in May).
The day is close to the beginning of Spring so some trace its origin back to Rome and central Europe to celebrate the arrival of the season where life is returning. It was full of rituals to celebrate fertility, and these rituals vary from dances, jumping around fires, and more. The Germanic tradition included dances around a living tree – is this the possibility of the May Pole’s origin?
The May Pole Dance – this brings back bad memories of elementary school and having to participate in the ritual as we celebrated the revolutionary spirit of America. Could this also be symbolizing the bringing of new life (Spring being connected to the birth of a new nation?). A common practice of the may pole dance was to have ladies rotate around the pole while intertwining ribbons to a tight connection and then they would dance in the opposite way to unwind the ribbon – and yes, this took a bit of skill so you wouldn’t end up with a wad of ribbons similar to a Gordian knot (yeah, look that one up to will ya). The tightening and loosening of the ribbon represented the shortening and lengthening of the days – thus return of life.
Yet May Day is also connected to a workers day – a kind of Labor Day. In the US, it is traditionally connected to a day of tragedy – the Chicago Haymarket Affair of 1885. This event sounds as if could have happened any given weekend in modern times. This was a protest to last several days to peacefully pursue labor unions and 8 hour work days. Violence and rioting did accompany it. Police began to get involved. Within a couple of days, hundreds had gathered. But on the 4th, the rain began to break the crowd up. The police went on to disperse the remainder of the crowd but a bomb went off in the middle of the police ranks – killing seven and wounding almost 70 of Chicago’s finest. The police opened fire on the crowd – killing several and wounding around 200.
Internationally, May 1 became connected to the Socialism and Communist movement to fight for the worker. And in 1958, President Eisenhower attempted to circumvent the socialistic movement and named May 1 as Loyalty Day – Loyalty to America and her freedom. I guess I owe Ike his due for the reason we did the May Pole Dance in elementary school.
And one last connection – the use of “May Day” as a distress call. Actually, this has nothing to do with May Day, May 1, at all. It is an Englishized French word – m’aidez – meaning “help me”.
Now, I need to get to my point – and I always have a point, even if in my own mind. In this world, there are often many different ways to look at the same thing. May Day may mean one thing or another, and when we talk to each other, we need to make sure we are on the same page – comparing apples to apples. It seems much of today’s conflicts and misunderstandings could be avoided if we just took some time to learn and listen.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Or in grandmas words – The Good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth, that shows you which one we should use more.
So, take May Day as celebration of God’s restoration of life, of the fruitfulness of the land we are to work, and of the nobility in working to honor the Lord. Or, take it as a distress call that we cry out for God’s grace and mercy. Have you noticed that no matter which view I mentioned here, it can all point back to God. For no matter what we do, it should always be done for our Lord and with Him in mind.