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What is May Day?

Find out why May 1 is commemorated as May Day every year here.

You've probably heard the SOS cry "May Day, May Day, May Day!" or seen it on your calendar on May 1, but do you know what May Day actually is? Turns out, it's a lot of things. 

As explained in the NBC Chicago video above, May Day is the commemoration of International Workers' Day, which celebrates the labor movement by recognizing the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, in which a bomb was thrown into a crowd of demonstrators. 

But May Day is also much more. According to InfoPlease.com, "it's a celebration of Spring. It's a day of political protests. It's a neopagan festival, a saint's feast day. ... In many countries, it is a national holiday."

The first day of May is celebrated differently all over the world, but in the United States, some people make May baskets to celebrate early European settlers reaching this continent. The baskets are filled with flowers and treats and are left on neighbors doorsteps. 

The Maypole is a staple of May Day around the world. According to TheHolidaySpot.com, centuries ago, European villages would compete to build the tallest Maypole.

As for the distress call "May Day, May Day, May Day," the term originates from 1923, when Senior Radio Officer Frederick Stanley Mockford was asked to come up with an easy-to-understand signal meaning "help me now." According to WantToKnowIt.com, he chose "May Day" because it sounds similar to "m'aider" the French phrase meaning "come help me." 

So now you know all about May Day. How will you celebrate? Tell us in the comments!

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L Marzo May 02, 2012 at 01:55 PM
May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. Garlands of flowers everywhere. All of the colors of the rainbow.
Terry Parris Jr. May 02, 2012 at 06:14 PM
L: Danville's Mayor Candace Andersen is from Hawaii. She made a mention of this last night during the council meeting. She said: "Coming from Hawaii -- instead of protests, we celebrate with leis and flowers. So I'm sort of missing that."


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