Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now.

In 1927, the term Mayday was adopted as a spoken equivalent of the Morse Code SOS signal. The term itself is an Anglicization of the French phrase m’aider (to aid me or to help me), itself a shortened version of the phrase venez m’aider (come to help me).

Also in 1927, the First of May was proposed as a celebration of the native culture of the Hawaiian Islands. It is known as May Day or Lei Day. The holiday is intended to be non-political, non-partisan, and non-religious.

This is in contrast to the significance of the date in much of Europe. International Workers’ Day was established as a commemoration of the Haymarket Riot. A labor strike was called on May 1st, 1886 in Chicago, IL to agitate for the establishment of an eight-hour work day. The strike turned violent on May 3rd, with the police firing on striking workers who were attacking replacement workers at the site of a lock-out. Between two and six workers were reportedly killed.

A flyer was printed by an anarchist group, calling the striking workers to a mass meeting as well as calling them “to arms.” The meeting, on the night of May 4th, lasted for several hours before the police moved in and ordered the crowd to disperse. As the police approached the crowd, and unknown person threw a bomb into the path of the advancing police, killing one officer instantly and mortally wounding six others. There was a firefight. At least four workers were killed, and sixty officers wounded as well as fifty or more strikers. The public opinion turned against the labor movement and ultimately a number of anarchists were executed on charges relating to the incident. The unions, however, suspected infiltrators were responsible for bombing so as to discredit the movement.

In 1890, the First of May was declared to be International Worker’s Day in an effort to unite Socialists, call attention to the eight-hour work day movement, and memorialize the (labor) victims of the Haymarket incident. Riots occurred in Cleveland in 1894 and 1919. It was not until 1978 when May Day (observed on the first Monday in May) became a labour holiday in the United Kingdom. In 2000, May Day riots resulted in (among other incidents) the destruction of a McDonald’s Restaurant on The Strand in London.

This has created a modern nexus with the traditional Anglo-Saxon holiday celebrating the coming of Spring and fertility. Modern celebrators connect the socialist roots where May Day equates to Labor Day with the pagan/earth/new age-y roots of the pagan fertility festivals.

Here at A Plague of Frogs Studios, we have the day off because it is Sunday. No political, partisan or religious connotations intended.

 

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