Why and how is 1 May celebrated around the world?

Published on 01/05/2023

Annually, every May 1st is celebrated around the world the well-known "Workers' Day" which aims to commemorate the workforce and the rights of workers worldwide and that thanks to the use of translation companies we can know the different meanings.

As can be seen, it is very common for many countries to fill this day with colours, flashy parties for their workers, bonuses or promises of improvement in work life. The truth is, this celebration has a deeper history, with roots of protests by working people in Chicago to gain the workers' rights they enjoy today.

Origin of the celebration of Workers' Day

The "Haymarket affair", also known as the Haymarket massacre, was a labour movement in which a large number of workers went on strike in every factory in Chicago on 1 May 1886 to demand from the bosses a deserved 8-hour working day as well as an improvement in wages, which at that time stood at $1.50 per day.

This general strike was supported by the federation of unions organised to standardise the 8-hour workday, which was attended by approximately half a million US industrial workers from all states who were excluded from the Ingersoll Act passed by then President Andrew Johnson in 1868, which determined the 8-hour workday for federal office and public works trades.

Germany celebrates its workers

After the First World War, which established the 8-hour working day worldwide, Germany was one of the countries that decreed 1 May as a national bank holiday, which, unlike initially, is now paid by companies to their workers.

In German, this celebration is known by the name of "Tag der Arbeit" which was used by Hitler with the intention of appropriating the 1st of May in order to break up any kind of socialist association. Today, the celebration of May Day as a commemoration of the Chicago martyrs is still present among every German, thus surviving the Nazi attempts to eradicate it.

Italy joins in May Day celebrations

According to the translation agency that has provided the information from Italian documents into English, it is said that President Francesco Crispi in his 1887 mandate banned strikes or public disturbance, disobedience of which could lead to imprisonment of any Italian or worse punishments by the government.

The expansion of the historic struggle of the Chicago martyrs for a fair day's work prompted every Italian to take part in their own revolt on 1 May 1890, in order to achieve a national mobilisation that would make the problems of the workers visible.

After so much death and struggle, the Italians succeeded in removing President Crispi from power in 1896, allowing workers to once again celebrate together regardless of their political or religious ideologies.

Brazil commemorates 1 May

Like many other countries, Brazil decreed May 1st as workers' day or "Dia do trabalhador" in its native Portuguese since 1924, but it has been celebrated by all Brazilians since 1895 as a commemoration of the Haymarket affair.

This date, with the passage of time, went from being a day of struggle to being the gateway for the implementation of new laws for the welfare of workers during the mandate of President Getulio Vargas, resulting in adjustments in the minimum wage and the creation of the labour court for the resolution of legal problems in the field of labour and workers' rights.

As could be seen, this was an important movement worldwide, where the thirst for justice broke down language barriers, making it possible for millions of workers speaking Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, English, German and a variety of other languages to understand each other for a common global good.

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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