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Commemoration day of workers May Day belongs to workers, not to lotus eaters

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In the words of Ernest Barker “individualism so conceived starts, indeed, from individual personality and from the inherent title of each individual person to enjoy the conditions necessary to the development of his capacities. However, just because the development of individual capacities starts on that basis one cannot develop his capacities fully without the assistance and the cooperation of others. He must be surrounded with service, a collective service which in union with others, he himself helps to provide for others as well as for himself, a service which becomes all the greater, the more fully the conditions necessary for his development is recognized and the more his rights are thereby extended.”   

Un-served and unattended individual  

Thus he should not be un-served or unattended. It should be a whole system of collective service which the individuality needs for development. During the period of feudalism individuals were unaided, disregarded and ill advised and individual workers were not cooperative. Hence, they often failed to get their needs and wants satisfied. Individuals realized that fact. They joined hands and worked together and achieved better results.  

Collectivity and collective bargain   

Therefore for the perfection of individual personality and capacity individuals need the assistance and co-operation of others. Individuals with similar interests get together and form into unions for mutual assistance and cooperation. This consolidation provides them strength, strength for the achievement of their wants and needs. All of them are benefited by power and strength exchanged among them. A number of sticks bound together are stronger than a single one. Likewise, individuals who get together and work together, help one another and share the available resources to gain momentum to face the challenges successfully. Workers who could not get their needs and wants satisfied as they wished by remaining as individuals realized the virtues of collectivity, cooperation and solidarity extended their friendly hands to the others who were in the same boat. They realized that their talents differed. This gave rise to the theories off division of labour and specialization. They expected recognition, better remuneration, better working conditions and other comforts. To achieve them they used collectivity as a weapon. They used the bargaining power and agitated collectively for the perfection of needs and wants individually as well as wholly. They formed trade unions. They were functioning well until politics interfered to divert the workers to a wrong direction.  

How May Day came into being  

On May 1, 1886, trade unions throughout the USA went on a strike demonstrating that the standard work day be shortened to eight hours. While socialists believed that all the people were equal anarchists believed that the government and the law should over rule the workers. There was a clash between the stand of the workers and that of the rulers and the workers went on strike in organized labour movements. The climax was the incident in Chicago Hay market where in the course of the riot on May 4th an anarchist threw a bomb causing the death of a number of persons, including police officers and injuring more than 100 people.  

Eight-hour working days 

These protests did not bring immediate results but the working class went on with their protests demanding eight hour working days and eventually it has become a norm. The men who were arrested after the Hay Market riot of 1886 in Chicago Illinois, on May 4 were executed. In communication of this execution, May Day is called the International Workers’ Day or the Labour Day. Consequently this May Day became established as an anarchists’ holiday and in this form May Day has become an International celebration of social and economic achievements of the working class and a labour movement.  

Loyalty Day  

Although May Day observances began in the USA it was not officially or popularly recognized as a holiday there. May 1 was officially designated by the UN Congress as a Loyalty Day in 1958 because of the association of May Day with Communism.  
The Paris Workers’ Congress held in Paris on 14-20 July 1889, the most notable decision was to call on all workers to celebrate May 1st each year as the International Festival of the working class.  
Labour leaders, socialists and archaists around the world have taken the American strikes and their fall out as a rallying point choosing May Day as a day for demonstrations, parades, meetings and speeches. It was a major state holiday in the Soviet Union (USSR) and other Communist countries consequent to the incident in Chicago.   

May Day Celebrations in various countries and attempts to undermine 

May Day is celebrated in most of the countries world over as the day of the working class. Meanwhile various authorities have tried to ban or undermine May Day, particularly the Communist observances during the cold war or hostilities among nations without actual fighting. In 1958 President Eisenhower designated May 1st as both Law Day and the Loyalty Day. In many countries including Sri Lanka, May day is celebrated not solely for the benefit of the working class but for other purposes such as gaining political ends.   

Flora festival 

Flora festivals are also held during this period to mark the beginning of summer. Flora is the Roman goddess of fruits and flowers. Summer is the period when fruits and flowers are available in abundance. Hence May Day is celebrated in the name of goddess Flora from April 28 to May 3.  

May poles and trees of liberty at May Day festival  

In the past, trees were the symbols of vitality and fertility of nature and were used at the spring festival. The May Tree has since become the “Tree of Liberty”. This was the symbol of the French Revolution. As a part of the May Day celebrations the youth in old Europe cut down trees lopped off the branches, leaving a few at the top of each tree. They wrapped the trees round with violets like figure of Attics, the Ancient Roman God. At Sunrise they took the trees to their villages blowing horns and flutes. This was done to symbolize the processing god Attics to the temple Cybil on Rome Palestine Hill during the spring festival of March 22. By the middle ages, every English village had its own May Pole. It was a competition among villagers to produce the largest May Pole  

May Poles constructed for May Day

In small towns and villages, May Poles were constructed only for the May Day. However, in large cities including London permanent May poles were erected. When Puritans came into power in 1644 the tradition of erecting May poles came to an end. However, the Stuarts captured power within a couple of decades and the reintroduced the tradition.  

May Day celebrations in honour of St. Walberg 

Another objective in celebrating May Day is to honour the Abbess of the monastery of Heedenhelm, St. Walberg who had helped St. Boniface bring Christianity to Germany during the 8th century.  

May Day and Pagan Festival  

May Day also had a coincidence with a Pagan festival which included rites to protect one against witchcraft. It was believed that witches met with the devil in the evening of May 1. It was believed that May Day celebrations had been conducted to avoid the ill effects of witchcraft.  

Celebrations to mark May Day 

In the past, in some countries, May Day celebrations began at the Sun set of April 30th. Celebrations included floral decorations in the houses at night on the April 30th followed by processions in towns and villages on the May Day. Celebrations included floral decorations in the houses at night on April 30 followed by processions in towns and villages on May Day.  

May Day celebrations at sunrise 

In some Western countries, children including those in the primary school participate in May Day festivals. Children start with a special May Day song followed by a procession to the church. All the children wear white garments and carry garlands of flowers. All girls wear straw hats and ribbons in their hair.  

House decorations on May Day  

In some parts of the globe, people get up early in the morning on May Day and go out to collect flowers and greenery and decorate their houses. They believe that the spirit of vegetation will bring good fortune. Girls wash their faces in the dew of the early morning. They believe that this would make them beautiful and remain same during the whole year. They attend to various festivities during the rest of the day. They dance in the village green. They also engage in archery contests and exhibit their strength.   

May Day queen  

The main item of the day is the crowning the May Day Queen. The model of the May Day Queen is made of flowers or a beautiful girl is selected for the crown. In the past it did not take part in games or dancing but sat on a chair decked with flowers and watched the performances of others. The tradition is followed even at present.   

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