This year, the annual spring ritual occurs on Wednesday, May 1, 2024.
Through the years, May Day celebrations have evolved into a hodgepodge of traditions -- including parties, sing-alongs, Old World maypole dancing and parades, and equally colorful labor protests on the streets of major capitals worldwide.
And just for a little contrast, in Hawaii it's ... Lei Day.
All about May Day
Historians generally agree that May Day celebrations probably originated in the spring fertility rites of ancient Rome, which occurred at about the same time of year marking celebrations honoring the goddess of spring, Flora.
By the Middle Ages, the day was being celebrated with a procession led by a "Queen of the May" chosen from a population of pretty teen girls, followed by the townspeople dancing around a maypole decorated with streamers and colorful spring flowers.
Pilgrims later brought May Day to America -- but Puritans among them were quick to put a stop to it. They cut down neighborhood maypoles, cancelled parades, and condemned the tradition as "that Stinking Idol reviving feasts of ye Roman goddess Flora". (They also cancelled Christmas.)
May Day protests
Along with parades and maypole dancing, workers'
protests also take place every year each May Day.
By the late 19th century, warmer spring weather saw workers take to the streets as May Day was reborn in America as a socialist movement celebrating workers' rights and collective bargaining power.
Most notably in Union Square in New York City, hundreds still gather each year to protest the ever-widening pay gap between business leaders and workers.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the US, May Day has little to do with street demonstations where communities tend more toward maypole dancing by young children (if the holiday is observed at all).
Today, despite having its origins in the US as a labor protest, May Day demonstrations are more predominant throughout the capital cities of Europe, where worker's rights have long been championed by a variety of socialist movements.
More information about May Day around the Web:
Around the web find out more about May Day, with a look at its orgiins as a spring festival along with its association with the modern labor movement including photos, video, and related resources:
Day - Find out how it all started, including typical May Day
events & celebrations worldwide with related photos and
resoures, from Wikipedia.