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It is interesting that English speakers think of May Day either as an SOS Morse code distress signal or as a television show about airplane disasters.  The origin of May Day has actually nothing to do with human distress or disaster.  May Day is a pre-Christian spring celebration in Europe that falls on May 1st.

What do people do on May Day?  The day is famously associated with the May Pole and May Tree.  In Europe, this tradition still lives on in some villages.  Designated trees are decorated with colourful ribbons.  A May Pole is erected where multiples of usually blue, white and red ribbons are wrapped around the pole by youngsters during live music with on-lookers cheering them on.  In cities, the tradition is centered around flower festivals.  Tapestries of flowers cover city centre squares and florists are in competition to win a price for their flowers and their designs.  The traditional foods in central Europe for the festivities are sausages on buns, pretzels and beer.  Kids usually receive colourful cotton candies and fruit juices.  Of course, girls love to decorate their hair with chaplets.  It is a cheerful day when even the most pessimistic people cannot help but smile.

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Of course, as with all ancient European celebrations, an establishment always loves to still the day to rename and replace the original idea.  Communism has been the biggest culprit in the 20th century.  Communists declared the day “workers’ day”.  Now, it is also known as the International Workers’ Day.  Unionized workers usually take the opportunity to plan demonstrations and demand more rights on May 1st.

The tradition is just vaguely associated with workers, though.  The original idea behind May Day was to celebrate the fertility of the land.  By May 1st, the farmers had a good idea looking at the number of flowers on trees, forests and their own lands, how well Mother Earth will gift them with their yearly crops.  Lots of flowers mean lots of food.  Lots of food mean healthy and bountiful live stocks.  Hence, the bounty of Mother Nature was a cause for happiness.  If the outlook was not that great, May Day was still an opportunity to say thanks for having enough and encourage the great forces of nature to offer a little more.  It does not hurt to celebrate the one offering the means to human survival!

This is a happy day.  So, smile!  And, do not wait for an airplane disaster in your neighbourhood!

M. J. Mandoki

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