May Day around the world!
In the northern hemisphere, May Day is a celebration of spring and rebirth and many ancient customs originate from the old Roman festivals which include gathering flowers and dancing around a tree or decorated pole (the Maypole). However, throughout the world, it is also International Workers’ Day.
The Norwegians listen out for the cuckoo’s first call in the spring. If it comes from the south, the year will be good. If it is heard from the north, it is forecasted as a year of ill luck. If it comes from the west, one will be successful, and if it comes from the east, one will be lucky in love.
In Germany, women may wake in the morning to find a decorated Maypole outside their house. This indicates love or an expression of interest. In return, women leave heart-shaped decorations, made out of rice or roses on windows or porches at the homes of those closest to their hearts.
In Greece, children set out at dawn in search of the first swallow of spring. When the bird is located, the children go from house to house, singing songs, and are treated with cakes, fruit and nuts.
In Spain, a tall pine tree, decorated with ribbons, beads and eggshells, serves as a Maypole.
French tradition dedicates the month of May to the Virgin Mary. Processions move through the streets carrying a statue of the Virgin crowned with flowers. An old custom is to drink warm milk direct from a cow, which is said to bring good luck for the coming year.
In Finland, May Day is the only public holiday that sees carnival-style festivities taking place in the streets. People decorate their town statues and a traditional mead-like drink made with honey and water is served along with freshly cooked funnel cakes.
Cubans march through their cities in support of government and revolution. The largest gathering is in Havana, where thousands of workers, dressed in red, waving flags and banners in support of the Cuban Revolution, gather at the Plaza de la Revolucion at the foot of the giant statue of Jose Marti, Cuba’s godfather of the Revolution.
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Sources: article by William F Jasper in The New American; article in timeanddate.com; Daily Mail; and Opodo