Bob Schwartz

Tag: May Day

May Day, Mayday!

May Day

May 1 is a very busy day.

It has been for ages a celebration of spring, with traditions including dancing around the Maypole.

It is International Workers’ Day, a labor holiday around the world. The date was set to commemorate the tragic Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.

In 1921, to neutralize the socialist/communist aspects, in America it became known as Loyalty Day (originally Americanization Day). Congress and President Eisenhower officially affirmed this in 1959 at the height of the Cold War.

In 1958 President Eisenhower declared May 1 to also be Law Day.

What’s sometimes overlooked is the coincidental similarity to the international radio distress call: Mayday! Mayday! This was reportedly first used in the 1920s by pilots in France. One story has it that it comes from the French “venez m’aidez” (come help me).

Is it just a coincidence? If you are a worker, or a lawyer, or someone who feels put upon by law or lawyers, or just about anybody feeling distressed on May 1, 2014, please feel free to say it loud. Though dancing helps too.

Labor, Loyalty and Law Day


It is May 1, and there is no Google search page gimmick for it. Probably because it is hard for Google to know exactly which May 1 to celebrate.

May Day has been for ages a universal celebration of spring, with sprightly traditions including dancing around the Maypole. Then it took a darker, more serious turn, becoming International Workers’ Day (Labor Day), a commemoration of the bloody death of workers at the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886. To counter this populist/communistic direction, in 1921 it became Loyalty Day (originally Americanization Day), with Congress and President Eisenhower officially affirming this in 1959 at the height of the Cold War. Almost simultaneously, in 1958 the President also declared May 1 to be Law Day.

May Day remains all this and whatever else you choose to make of it. Consider these virtues: the importance of labor and economic justice, the value of deserved loyalty, the significance of the rule of law, and the joys of spring that make all of them worthwhile. If you miss May 1, May 2 or every other day will do for working on all these and for dancing, with or without a Maypole.