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Public Holidays in Spain - 1st May Labour Day (May Day)

1st May is a National holiday here in Spain, known as a RED DAY, similar to a Bank Holiday back in the UK, so some supermarkets will be closed or open for much shorter hours, banks, offices and schools will be CLOSED.

When is Labour Day?

This holiday is most commonly associated as a commemoration of the achievements of the labour movement. The holiday may also be known as International Worker's Day or May Day and is marked with a public holiday in over 80 countries. In the United Kingdom and Ireland the bank holiday isn't fixed on May 1st but instead is observed on the first Monday of May.

May 1st was also a pagan holiday in many parts of Europe, Its roots as a holiday stretch back to the Gaelic Beltane. It was considered the last day of winter when the beginning of summer was celebrated.

During Roman times, May 1st was seen as a key period to celebrate fertility and the arrival of spring. The Roman festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and the season of spring, was held between April 28th and May 3rd

History of Labour Day

The first May Day celebrations focused on workers took place on May 1st 1890 after its proclamation by the first international congress of socialist parties in Europe on July 14th 1889 in Paris, France, to dedicate May 1st every year as the "Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity."

The date was chosen due to events on the other side of the Atlantic. In 1884 the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions demanded an eight-hour workday, to come in effect as of May 1st 1886. This resulted in the general strike and the Haymarket (in Chicago) Riot of 1886, but eventually also in the official sanction of the eight-hour workday.

Curiously (given the origin of the 1 May date), the United States celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September (May 1st is Loyalty Day), a legal but not widely recognized holiday in the United States). There is some suggestion that the reason for this was to avoid the commemoration of riots that had occurred in 1886. The adoption of May Day by communists and socialists as their primary holiday has been as another reason for the official resistance to May Day labor celebrations in America.

Ancient Spring Traditions

May Day is originally a celebration of spring and the rebirth taking place in nature. Many ancient customs associated with the day come from the old Roman festival of flowers and similar ancient Greek festivities like the Anthesteria. These include gathering branches and flowers, choosing or crowning a May Queen, and the fertility rite of dancing around a bush, tree, or a decorated May Pole. 

Sports and festivities held on this day symbolize the rebirth of nature as well as human fertility. In Spain, a tall pine tree is used as a Maypole. It is decorated with ribbons, beads, and eggshells as people dance around the pole and sing May songs.

 

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