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May Day: Finding New Meaning

May 01, 2012 | By Lauren Barrett

Art by Banksy

While the Pagan origins of May Day (known as Beltane in Celtic tradition) are rooted in fertility, flowers, and crop blessings, present-day May Day is more often associated with the fight for the eight-hour workday, or better yet - against the eight-hour work day?

In the U.S., May Day is known as a day for protests, workers’ rights, and an almost celebratory camaraderie among working Americans.

The McCormick Strike of 1886 - leading to the Haymarket Affair - marked the evolution of May Day as an unofficial International Workers’ Day. Protesters had gathered for a labor rally on May 4 in downtown Chicago following the killing of two McCormick strikers the day before. The rally turned bloody, and several protesters and policemen were killed, and over 100 others wounded, but the historic day ignited decades of global awareness for workers’ rights, civil rights, and human rights.

Most saliently, May Day came to signify the capability to foster grassroots change.

An Opportunity to Acknowledge Rebirth in Our Lives

Today, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of protests and marches taking place around the world, from San Francisco to Barcelona and Istanbul to Cuba. While May Day never quite takes on the same meaning in every city or workplace, the rejuvenating energy is ubiquitous around the world.

In finding new meaning in May Day, we have an opportunity to acknowledge rebirth - of our rights, of grassroots movements, of Spring, and of what is most important to each of us.

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