Celebrated annually on the first day of May, May Day is a time-honored holiday that signals the arrival of spring. Associated with diverse customs, rituals and celebrations, May Day holds a dual identity. In several countries, this day carries significant weight as it symbolizes International Workers’ Day or Labor Day, honoring workers’ rights and labor unions’ accomplishments.

From lively parades, traditional Maypole dances, to fun-filled games, May Day rekindles the spirit of seasonal transition. It is observed as a public holiday in many parts of the world.

History of May Day

May Day is an ancient celebration that originated thousands of years ago during the Roman Republic as a summer commencement festival. Romans held a festival in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers, named ‘Floralia’. This May Day celebration incorporated ceremonies, games, and the collection of wildflowers.

Similarly, ancient Celtic cultures marked May 1st as ‘Beltane’ - a recognition of the onset of summer’s warmth. They believed that during this time, the barrier between our world and that of deities and spirits was thinner, facilitating communication.

In addition, Germanic cultures had a unique way of celebrating May Day, which included Maypole dancing and festive performances to usher in a fruitful planting season.

By medieval times, May Day had become a widespread secular celebration across Europe. This included electing a ‘May Queen’, engaging in song and dance, and dancing around a Maypole – a tall wooden pole adorned with flowers and ribbons.

Moving to the 19th-century, May Day took on a more political connotation. In 1886, the American Federation of Labor declared a national strike on May 1st, advocating for an eight-hour workday. The movement in Chicago’s Haymarket Square turned violent, resulting in several casualties among workers and police. The tragic incident inspired the Second International - a collaboration of socialist and labor parties in Paris - to proclaim May 1st as International Workers’ Day in 1889.

Currently, the celebration of May Day is marked by both its historical significance as a welcoming of the warmer season and a day of remembrance and action for labor rights. However, its significance and the manner in which it’s celebrated varies across the globe. Some countries consider it a public holiday, while others omit its celebration entirely. Essentially, it’s celebrated as synonymous with International Workers’ Day or Labor Day in various parts of the world.

May Day Timeline

May Day in Pre-Christian Europe

It is believed that May Day originated as a pagan season, a celebration of spring's return in parts of ancient Greece, Rome, and Germany.

Fading of May Day in Europe

With the rise of Christianity, many pagan traditions including the celebration of May Day faded, although some still survived in rural areas.

Historic May Day

On this day, a general strike erupted in various parts of the United States leading to major labor rights reforms.

First International Workers' Day

May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers' Day to commemorate the Haymarket affair.

Contemporary May Day Celebrations

May Day has become an opportunity for workers and activists all over the world to protest against unfair working conditions, unemployment, and austerity measures.

Ideas to Celebrate May Day

1 faq icon

Maypole Dancing

Maypole dancing is a traditional form of dance seen on May Day, which has its roots in Germanic paganism. Gather friends and family for a fun & traditional dance around the Maypole. If you can’t get your hands on a Maypole, any pole or tree in your garden would suffice.

2 faq icon

Floral Crown Making Activity

May Day is all about embracing the onset of summer. Invite guests over and indulge in a craft session to create beautiful floral crowns made from fresh flowers or even artificial ones.

3 faq icon

Spring Picnic

Organize a spring picnic in the local park. Get everyone to contribute a dish, ideally using fresh spring ingredients. Toast with a traditional spring drink like Mead or a non-alcoholic elderflower cordial.

4 faq icon

May Day Parade

Participate in a local May Day parade or if there's none, organize a small neighborhood procession. Dress up in costumes and carry banners to bring the community together.

5 faq icon

May Day Baskets

Create small May Day baskets filled with flowers or treats. The tradition is to hang them on a neighbor's door, knock and run away. It's a fun, heartwarming prank that spreads positivity.

6 faq icon

Support Worker's Rights

May Day is also International Workers Day. You can celebrate by raising awareness about workers' rights. Organize a workshop or a talk to educate people about the history and importance of this day.

8 Interesting Facts About May Day


May Day Origin

May Day originates from the Pagan festival of Beltane which marked the beginning of summer. It was traditionally celebrated with bonfires to protect against evil spirits.


International Workers' Day

May Day is also known as International Workers' Day. It is a celebration of laborers and working class, inspired by the labor movement advocating for an eight-hour workday.


Maypole Dancing

Maypole dance is a traditional folk dance that uses a tall pole adorned with ribbons. Dancers weave the ribbons in intricate patterns around the pole.


Flower Baskets Tradition

In some regions, it is a May Day tradition to hang baskets of flowers or gifts on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones.


Emergence of Spring

May Day is typically associated with the celebration of spring. It is the time of the year when the weather starts to improve and flowers are in full bloom.


May Day Distress Signal

In an entirely different context, 'Mayday' is an internationally recognized distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It came from the French term 'm'aider', which means 'help me'.


May 1st as New Year

In ancient Rome and medieval times, May 1 was considered the beginning of the New Year.


May Day in Hawaii

In Hawaii, May Day is known as Lei Day, a holiday celebrating Hawaiian culture. It includes lei-making competitions, Hawaiian music, hula and more.

May Day FAQs

Next May Day Dates

Year Date Day
2023 May 1st Monday
2024 May 1st Wednesday
2025 May 1st Thursday
2026 May 1st Friday
2027 May 1st Saturday
What is the pattern? Every May 1st

May Day Word Search

  • Unity
  • Labor
  • Protest
  • Rights
  • Socialist
  • Workers