May Day – protests
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It’s May Day. Here’s what that means

Lots of men dancing around wearing silly clothes, a day off on Monday, and a day of strikes and protests

It's the first of May. Birds are singing, flowers blooming, there's a bank holiday ahead.

What it means: People have celebrated the 1st of May pretty much forever. It has its roots in pagan festivals, which is why it often features men dressed up in funny clothes, dancing around a stick.

But May Day also coincides with International Workers' Day, which is tied up in the history of unions, and of the fight for the improvement of workers' rights.

A potted history: In 1886 (on May 1st) a group of workers took part in a general strike in Chicago to campaign for an eight hour working day, the protests got violent, and police officers fired into the crowd. In commemoration, groups around the world which supported the strikers (coming under the banner of international 'socialist' groups and  ) declared 1 May a day of commemoration, with demonstrations planned around the world.

Since that point, May Day has become a focus for protests – A march in London today, for example, will call for improved rights for unions and union members. Many countries around the world officially recognise 'Labour Day' as a national holiday (in the US it's celebrated in September instead). In the UK, confusingly, there is a Bank Holiday for May Day, but it's not officially linked to Labour Day, it's about the dancing around the maypole stuff

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Reader Comments

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