Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, held on April 27. The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. Pre-Christian Europe celebrated February 1st as the first day of spring and May 1st as the first day of summer.
With the spread of Christianity many pagan holidays lost their religious character and became secular celebration. Since the 18th century, many Roman Catholics have observed May Day with various ways to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus.
May 1 is also one of two feast days of the Catholic patron saint of workers St. Joseph the Worker, a carpenter, husband to Mother Mary, and surrogate father of Jesus. May 1st was chosen by Pope Pius XII in 1955 as a counterpoint to the communist International Workers Day celebrations on May Day.
International Workers Day is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement, socialists, communists and anarchists. May 1st was chosen to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May 1886.
May Day is a national public holiday in many countries, but in only some countries celebrate it as "Labour Day" or "International Workers' Day". Other countries celebrate a Labour Day on other dates. In the United States we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September.
Not related. "Mayday," the distress call, comes from the French phrase "m'aidez," which means "help me."
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