Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Carly. Carly Wonders, “what is May Day” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Carly!

What comes to mind when you think of flowers? How about sunshine, seeds sprouting, and Mothers Day? In the northern hemisphere, most people associate these things with the month of May. And many of them think of a special holiday—May Day!

What is May Day? The holiday falls on May 1. For people living north of the equator, it’s long been a celebration of spring. May brings longer days, warmer weather, and the renewal of plant life. In short, there are many things to celebrate! Since the late-1800s, it has also been connected to the labor rights movement. Today, May 1 is also International Workers’ Day.

May Day has existed as a holiday for centuries. It reaches at least as far back as ancient Greece. This civilization held the holiday as a celebration of spring. People gathered flowers and wove garlands. They also celebrated by dancing around a tree or maypole, which is a painted pole decorated with flowers and ribbons.

The tradition of May Day spread to Europe. There, it was called Beltaine. Many groups observed this holiday, including the Gaelic people. They observed the day as a celebration for the fertility of their crops and cattle. Today, many people continue to celebrate. The holiday is especially popular among neo-Pagan groups.

It was in 1886 when May 1 became connected to the labor movement. That year, thousands of workers across the U.S. went on strike. In Chicago, the protests lasted several days and grew violent. Today, May Day is a day of protest for many workers around the world. In 1889, it was named International Workers’ Day. 

How do people celebrate May Day? Groups of people have many different traditions. However, most celebrations have a few things in common. One example is a maypole or bonfire. People dance around the maypole or bonfire in celebration of spring’s arrival.

Most groups that observe May Day also name a May Queen, and some include a May King. They are crowned with wreaths of flowers to represent the spring season. Those who celebrate May Day also often include a feast and other rituals to mark the special day.

In the southern hemisphere, May is part of the season of fall. For that reason, celebrations similar to May Day are held on November 1. On May 1, people living south of the equator welcome fall and the coming of winter.

Does your family celebrate May Day? Have you ever danced around the maypole or crowned a May Queen? Perhaps you celebrate the day by advocating for workers’ rights instead. Either way, we hope you have a joyful May Day!

Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.2, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.2, NCAS.A.3

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