4 Life Lessons from May Day

jeans with flowers, wrench, and the words "happy Labor Day"

On May 1, while many herald the arrival of Spring by dancing around Maypoles or delivering flowers in homemade May baskets to neighbors,  workers around the globe celebrate International Workers Day, also called Labour Day. Although in the U.S. we celebrate Labor Day on September 1, the international observation of Worker’s Day had its genesis in Chicago. In America, May 1st marks a completely different, but connected, little-known observance called Loyalty Day. I geeked out a bit reading up on this day’s complicated backstory. Here’s a quick history lesson:

Before modern labor laws

Workers were routinely forced to labor 12 – 15 hours a day. Union organizers galvanized workers to launch a nationwide strike for 8-hour workdays with protests that began on May 1, 1886. At Haymarket Square in Chicago, after three days the peaceful protests turned violent in The Haymarket Affair that resulted in four executions and garnered international attention.

By the early 20th century

During the Bolshevik movement, socialists and communists had adopted May Day as the commemoration of oppressed workers. In July of 1958, during the height of Cold War panic, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a resolution naming May 1 as “Loyalty Day” in an attempt to avoid any hint of solidarity with the “workers of the world” on May Day. Every U.S. president since Eisenhower has issued a Loyalty Day proclamation on this day, as directed by joint congressional resolution.

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the 1st day of May of each year is hereby designated as Loyalty Day and is to be set aside as a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of America and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom; and the President of the United States is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon officials of the Government to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on such day and inviting the people of the United States to observe such day, in schools and other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies.”

May Day is as All-American as Wrangler jeans and Channellock pliers.

However you view May 1st, I invite you to check out the emotionally complex day captured in photos by the BBC. Then take a step back from the complex messiness and recognize what we can all learn from the collective influences on this day. Make a personal proclamation to adopt these 4 good-for-you attitudes, guaranteed to put a spring in your step:

  1. Work a little less.

  2. Take time to smell the roses.

  3. Show kindness to all neighbors.

  4. Be grateful for the freedom we enjoy.

Happy May Day!
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