International Workers' Day

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This article is about International Workers' Day on May 1 and sometimes called May Day. See May Day for the traditional spring holiday. See Labour Day for other labor-related holidays..
International Workers' Day
Official name International Workers' Day
Also called May Day
Celebrations Organized street demonstrations and street marches
Date May 1
Next time 1 May 2015 (2015-05-01)
Frequency annual
Related to May Day, Labor Day, various other Labour Days

International Workers' Day, also known as Labour Day in some places, is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement, Anarchists, Socialists, and Communists and occurs every year on May Day, May 1, an ancient European spring holiday.[1][2] May 1 was chosen as the date for International Workers' Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago that occurred on May 4, 1886.[2]

Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in many countries, but in only some of those countries is it celebrated specifically as "Labour Day" or "International Workers' Day". Some countries celebrate a Labour Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States which celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September.

States and dependencies colored by observance of International Workers' Day or a different variant of May Day or Labour Day:
  Labour day falls or may fall on May 1st
  Another public holiday on May 1st
  No public holiday on May 1st, but Labour Day on a different date
  No public holiday on May 1st and no Labour Day


Beginning in the late 19th Century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, a variety of days were chosen by trade unionists as a day to celebrate labor. In the United States and Canada, a September holiday, called Labor or Labour Day, was first proposed in the 1880s. In 1882, Matthew Maguire, a machinist, first proposed a Labor Day holiday while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU)) of New York.[3] Others argue that it was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882,[4] after witnessing the annual labour festival held in Toronto, Canada.[5] In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day.[4] Thus by 1887 in North America, Labor Day was an established, official holiday but in September,[6] not on May 1.

May 1 was chosen to be International Workers' Day in order to commemorate the May 4, 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. The police were trying to disperse a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday, when an unidentified person threw a bomb at the police. The police responded by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators.[7][8]

In 1889, a meeting in Paris was held by the first congress of the Second International, following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne which called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests.[2] May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International's second congress in 1891.[citation needed] Subsequently, the May Day Riots of 1894 occurred. In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." The congress made it "mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on May 1, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers."[9] Across the globe, labor activists sought to make May Day an official holiday to honor labor and many countries have done so.

Khrushchev and Poliburo members atop Lenin's Tomb, May Day, 1957

May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist, communist and anarchist groups. May Day has been an important official holiday in countries such as the People's Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba and the former Soviet Union. May Day celebrations typically feature elaborate popular and military parades in these countries[citation needed].

In 1955, the Catholic Church dedicated May 1 to "Saint Joseph The Worker". Saint Joseph is for the Church the patron saint of workers and craftsmen (among others).[10]

During the Cold War, May Day became the occasional for large military parades in Red Square by the Soviet Union and attended by the top leaders of the Kremlin, especially the Politburo, atop Lenin's Tomb. It became an enduring symbol of that period.



May 1 is a public labour holiday in Algeria.[11] the first of May is celebrated in Algeria as a labours day and a paid bank holiday since 1962.


Egyptian Communist Party flags in Tahrir Square.

May 1 is known as Labor Day and is considered a paid holiday. The President of Egypt traditionally presides over the official May Day celebrations in Cairo; however, owing to the absence of a president pursuant to the Revolution of 2011, as well as corruption charges faced by the head of the state-controlled national trade union centre (the Egyptian Trade Union Federation), the 2011 celebrations were organized by independent unions (united under the banner of the Egyptian Federation for Independent Trades Unions) for the first time since the Revolution of 1952.[12][13]


In Kenya, May Day is a public holiday and celebrated as the Labour Day. It is a big day addressed by the leaders of the workers umbrella union body- Central Organisation of Trade Unions COTU. The Minister for Labour (and occasionally the President) address the Workers. Each Year, the government approves (and increases) the minimum wage on Labour Day


On May 1, 1978, former Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar Al-Qaddafi addressed the nation in the capital city of Tripoli calling for Administrative and also Economic Reforms across Libya:

We celebrate today the first of May, the International Workers' Day; but the real workers' day is the one on which all workers of the world are liberated from slavery and when they become partners instead of wage workers...

This should be the Workers' International Day of Liberation throughout the world which deserves the true celebration.

On September 1, marking the 9th anniversary of Qaddafi's rise to leadership, masses responded to the calls made four months prior by revolting and holding mass strikes against many institutions and private owned entities effectively eliminating the Private sector of the economy.

Four years later, again marking Workers' Day, Qaddafi gave a historic speech to labourers all over the world asking them to push further with reforms called for in 1978:

On this day we call on the workers of the world who are suffering from deceit, exploitation, oppression and slavery, to rebel against cruel social relations by seizing factories and production units to control their rights over production and form their people's congresses and committees ('No democracy without popular congresses...Committees everywhere!'[14][15][16]). The outbreak of the workers revolution shall sweep the world, destroying forces of exploitation and oppression and raising the banner of the dictum "Partners in production not wage-earners", guided by the second chapter[17][18][19] of The Green Book.

—Muammar Qaddafi, Workers' International Day of Liberation, May 1, 1982, Tripoli, Libya


International Workers' Day was declared as a national public holiday on May 1 of each year commencing 2012 by the National Transitional Council of Libya – the first year of the post-Qaddafi era.[21]


It is recognized as a public holiday May 1.

South Africa[edit]

Main article: Workers' Day

In South Africa, Workers' Day has been celebrated as a national public holiday on the 1 May each year since 1994.


In Tanzania, it is a public holiday and celebrated as the Workers' Day.


May 1 is recognised as Labour Day.



In Argentina, Workers' Day is an official holiday, and is frequently associated with the labor unions situated in the nation. During the day, many celebrations related to the labor movements take place, including demonstrations in major cities. It is also customary to organize meetings at friends' places, at the sports associations, at the workplace, or at the labor unions for typically local food, usually locro or asado.[citation needed]

The first Workers' Day celebration was in 1890, when Argentinean unions, controlled in those days by socialists and anarchists, organized several joint celebrations in Buenos Aires and other cities, at the same time that the international labor movement celebrated it for the first time.[22] In 1930, it was established as official holiday by the first president elected after the passage of the Sáenz Peña Law, the radical Hipólito Yrigoyen. The day became particularly relevant during the worker-oriented government of Juan Domingo Perón (1946–55).[23] He permitted and endorsed national recognition of the holiday during his tenure in office.


May 1 is known as Labour Day and is considered a holiday. Almost all workers tend to respect it.[citation needed]


In Brazil, Workers' Day is an official holiday, and unions commemorate it with day-long public events. It is also when salaries for most professional categories and the minimum wage are traditionally readjusted.[citation needed]


See also: Labour Day
A notice about an anti-capitalist rally on Worker's Day in Montreal (2011)

In Canada, Labour Day is celebrated in September. In 1894, the government of Prime Minister John Sparrow David Thompson declared the first Monday in September as Canada's official Labour Day. Labor Day in the United States is on the same day.

May Day is however marked by unions and leftists. May Day is an important day of trade-union and community group protest in the province of Quebec (though not a provincial stat holiday). Celebration of the International Labour Day (or "International Workers' Day"; French translation: Journée internationale des travailleurs) in Montreal goes back to 1906, organised by the Mutual Aid circle. The tradition had a renaissance at the time of a mass strike in 1972. On the 1973 May Day, the first contemporary demonstration was organised by the major trade union confederations; over 30 000 trade unionists took part in this demonstration. Further, it is the customary date on which the minimum wage rises.[24]


President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo decreed May 1 a national holiday in 1931, in honor of the dignity of workers.[25] All stores and public services must close for the entire day, and the major trade unions of Chile, represented in the national organization Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, organize rallies during the morning hours, with festivities and cookouts in the later part of the day, in all the major cities of Chile. During these rallies, representatives of the major left-wing political parties speak to the assemblies on the issues of the day concerning workers’ rights.


May 1 has long been recognized as labor day or Dia del Trabajo and almost all workers respect it as a national holiday. As in many other countries, it is common to see rallies by the trade unions in all over the main regional capitals of the country.

Costa Rica[edit]

It is recognized as a public holiday, and at the same time an important day for government activities. On this day the President of Costa Rica gives a speech to the citizens and the legislature of Costa Rica about the duties that were taken through the previous year. The president of the legislature is also chosen by its members.


This day is known as Día del Trabajo (Labor Day) in Cuba. People march in the streets, showing their support to their local socialist government and the Cuban Revolution during the whole morning. La Habana or Santiago de Cuba are some of the cities where generally more people march. In 2011, guests from 73 countries and 167 representatives of labor and social organizations worldwide joined the march in Habana.[26]

Dominican Republic[edit]

May 1 is a national holiday known as Labor Day or Día del Trabajo which is celebrated by workers' parades and demonstration.


It is recognized as a public holiday known as Labor Day or Día del Trabajo

El Salvador[edit]

It is an official holiday and it is commemorated with parades.


May 1 is an official public holiday known as Labor Day or Día del Trabajo.


May 1 is a Federal holiday known as Día del Trabajo or Labor Day. It also commemorates the Cananea Mine Strike of 1906 in the Mexican state of Sonora.


May 1 is an official public holiday known as Labor Day or Día del Trabajo.


May 1 is an official public holiday known as Labor Day or Día del Trabajo.

United States[edit]

Main article: Labor Day
Socialists in Union Square, N.Y.C. on May 1st 1912

In the United States, efforts to switch Labor Day from September to May 1 have not been successful. In 1921, following the Russian Revolution of 1917, May 1 was promoted as "Americanization Day" by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups in opposition to communism. It became an annual event, sometimes featuring large rallies. In 1949, Americanization Day was renamed to Loyalty Day. In 1958, the U.S. Congress declared Loyalty Day, the U.S. recognition of May 1, a national holiday; that same year, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 Law Day as well.

Unions and union locals in the United States — especially in urban areas with strong support for organized labor — have maintained a connection with labor traditions through their own unofficial observances on May 1. Some of the largest examples of this occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when hundreds of thousands of workers marched in May Day parades in New York's Union Square. Radical organizations including anarchist groups and socialist and communist parties have kept the May Day tradition alive with rallies and demonstrations in such cities as New York, Chicago and Seattle, often with major union backing.[27][28][29]

In 2006, May 1 was chosen by mostly Latino immigrant groups in the United States as the day for the Great American Boycott, a general strike of undocumented immigrant workers and supporters to protest H.R. 4437, immigration reform legislation which they felt was draconian. From April 10 to May 1 of that year, millions of immigrant families in the U.S. called for immigrant rights, workers rights and amnesty for undocumented workers. They were joined by socialist and other leftist organizations on May 1.[30][31] On May 1, 2007, a mostly peaceful demonstration in Los Angeles in support of undocumented immigrant workers ended with a widely televised dispersal by police officers. In March 2008, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced that dockworkers will move no cargo at any West Coast ports on May 1, 2008, as a protest against the continuation of the Iraq War and the diversion of resources from domestic needs.[32] For May Day 2010, marches were being planned in many cities uniting immigrant and native workers including New York,[33][34] San Francisco,[35] Boston,[36] Albany[37] Chicago and Los Angeles most of whom protested against the Arizona Senate Bill 1070[38]

On May 1, 2012, members of Occupy Wall Street and labor unions held protests together in a number of cities in the United States and Canada to commemorate May Day and to protest the state of the economy and economic inequality.[39][40]


In Uruguay, May 1 – Workers' Day – is an official holiday. Even when it is associated with labor unions, almost all workers tend to respect it. Since the late 1990s, the main event takes place at the First of May Square in Montevideo.


May 1 is an official holiday in Venezuela. El Día del Trabajador is celebrated on May 1 in Venezuela since 1936, but from 1938 to 1945 it was held on 24 July, by an order of Eleazar López Contreras. However, Isaías Medina Angarita changed it back to May 1 in 1945.[41]



In Bahrain, May 1 is known as Labour Day and is considered a public holiday.


In Bangladesh, it is observed on 1 May and is a Government holiday.


In Cambodia, it is known as International Labour Day and it is a public holiday.


May 1 is a statutory holiday in the People's Republic of China. Prior to 2008, it was a three-day holiday, but is now just the one day. However, it is usually supplemented by two other days to give the appearance of a three-day holiday, but not being statutory holidays the extra days have to be 'made up' by working either the preceding or following weekend. For example, in 2013, May 1 falls on the Wednesday. Most workplaces, including all government offices, will take Monday 29 April, Tuesday 30 April and Wednesday May 1 off. As the first two days are not statutory holidays they have to be 'made up' by working the preceding weekend (27 and 28 April).

Hong Kong[edit]

May 1 is known as Labour Day and has been considered a public holiday since 1999.


The first May Day celebration in India was organised in Madras (now Chennai) by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan on 1 May 1923.[42] This was also the first time the red flag was used in India.[43] The party leader Singaravelu Chettiar made arrangements to celebrate May Day in two places in 1923. One meeting was held at the beach opposite to the Madras High Court; the other meeting was held at the Triplicane beach. The Hindu newspaper, published from Madras reported,

The Labour Kisan party has introduced May Day celebrations in Madras. Comrade Singaravelar presided over the meeting. A resolution was passed stating that the government should declare May Day as a holiday. The president of the party explained the non-violent principles of the party. There was a request for financial aid. It was emphasized that workers of the world must unite to achieve independence.[44]

May Day is a public holiday in several parts of the country.[45] The holiday is tied to labour movements for communist and socialist political parties. Labour Day is known as "Kamgar Din" in Hindi, "Kamgar Divas" in Marathi and "Uzhaipalar Dinam" in Tamil. In North India, Labour Day is mostly not given its previous importance as a holiday now.

May 1 is also celebrated as "Maharashtra Day"[46] and "Gujarat Day" to mark the date in 1960, when the two western states attained statehood after the erstwhile Bombay State was divided on linguistic lines. Maharashtra Day is held at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai. Schools and offices in Maharashtra remain closed on May 1. A similar parade is held to celebrate Gujarat Day in Gandhinagar.


May Day (often referred locally as Labor Day) in Indonesia was first observed as a public holiday from 2014. Every year on the day, labors take over the streets in major cities across the country, voicing their demands for better income & a supportive policy by the ministries.[47]


In Iran, May 1 is known as the International Workers' Day. It is not a public holiday.


In Iraq, it is known as the International Workers' Day and it is a public holiday.


In the State of Israel, May 1 is not an official holiday. Avodah-affiliated organizations and the Histadrut recognize this international holiday.[citation needed]


2011 National Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo) May Day march, Tokyo.

May Day is not officially designated by the Japanese government as a national holiday, but as it lies between other national holidays, it is a day-off work for the vast majority of Japanese workers. Many employers give it as a day-off by, and otherwise workers take it as "paid leave". 1 May 1 occurs during "Golden Week", together with 29 April ("Shōwa Day"), 3 May ("Constitution Memorial Day"), 4 May ("Greenery Day") and 5 May ("Children's Day"). Workers generally take the day off work not so much to join street rallies or labour union gatherings, but more to go on holiday for several consecutive days (in Japanese corporate culture, taking weekdays off for personal pleasure is widely frowned upon).

Some major labour unions organise rallies and demonstrations in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Japan has a long history of labour activism and since 1945, has had a communist and socialist party in the Diet. In 2008, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenrōren) held a rally in Yoyogi Park attended by 44,000 participants, while the National Trade Unions Council (Zenrōkyō) held its May Day rally at Hibiya Park. Rengō, the largest Japanese trade union, held its May Day rally on the following Saturday (3 May), allegedly to distance itself from the more radical labour unions.


May 1 is known as Labour Day and is considered a public holiday.


May 1 is known as the Workers' Day and is considered a public holiday. From the 1960s through the 1990s, left-wing parties and worker's unions organised major marches on this day. Recently[when?], only symbolic marches take place on this day.


May 1 is officially known as Dia do Trabalhador in Portuguese. It is a public holiday in the SAR.


Malaysia began observing the holiday in 1972 following an announcement by the late Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Ismail Abdul Rahman.[48]


Maldives first observed the holiday in 2011, after a declaration by President Mohamed Nasheed. He noted that this move highlighted the government’s commitment as well as efforts of private parties to protect and promote workers’ rights in the Maldives.[49]


In Myanmar, May 1 is known as Labour Day and is considered a public holiday.


May Day has been celebrated in Nepal since 1963.[50] The day became a public holiday in 2007.[51]

North Korea[edit]

In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, May 1 is known as International Workers' Day, and is a public holiday. The Rungnado May Day Stadium in the capital of Pyongyang was built in honor of the holiday.


International Labour Day is observed in Pakistan on May 1 to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers. It is a public and national holiday. All government and non-government organizations, factories and educational institutions remain close on this day.


May 1 is known as Labour Day and is considered a public holiday.


May 1 is known as Labor Day and is a public holiday in the Philippines. On this day, labor organizations and unions hold protests in major cities. On May 1, 1903, during the American colonial period the Union Obrera Democratica Filipina (Filipino Democratic Labor Union) held a 100,000-person[52] rally in front of the Malacañan Palace demanding workers' economic rights and Philippine independence.[citation needed] Ten years later, the first official[by whom?] celebration was held on May 1, 1913 when 36 labor unions convened for a congress in Manila.[52] On May 1, 2001, a mass demonstration occurred near Malacañang Palace known as EDSA 3 or May 1 Riots.

During the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a policy was adopted called holiday economics policy that moved holidays to either a Monday or a Friday to create a long weekend of three days. In 2002, Labor Day was moved to April 29. Labor groups protested, as they accused the Arroyo administration of belittling the holiday.[53] By 2008, Labor Day was excluded in the holiday economics policy, returning the commemorations every May 1, no matter what day of the week it falls under.[54]


In Singapore, it is known as Labour Day and it is a public holiday.

South Korea[edit]

In the Republic of Korea, May 1 is known simply as "Workers' Day". It is not a public holiday.

Sri Lanka[edit]

In Sri Lanka, it is observed on May 1 and is a Government and public holiday. The government has held official May Day celebrations in major towns and cities, with the largest being in the capital, Colombo. During celebrations, it is common to witness party leaders greeting the crowds. The United People's Freedom Alliance usually spearheads the political aspect of the Sri Lankan May Day. Workers frequently carry banners with political slogans and many parties decorate their vehicles.


May 1 is known as Labour Day and is considered a public holiday throughout the nation.


In the Republic of China, May 1 is an official public holiday. Here it is known as Labour Day.


In Thailand, the day is known in English as National Labour Day, and is one of 16 official public holidays in Thailand.

United Arab Emirates[edit]

In UAE, it is not officially observed and is a normal working day.


In Vietnam, it is known as International Labor Day and is a public holiday. The word International Workers' Day in Vietnamese is Ngày Quốc tế Lao động . It was first celebrated in 1913.


Eastern bloc under Communist governments[edit]

Eastern Bloc countries such as the Soviet Union and most countries of central and eastern Europe that were under the rule of Communist governments held official May Day celebrations in every town and city, during which party leaders greeted the crowds. Workers carried banners with political slogans and many companies decorated their company cars. The biggest celebration of May 1 usually occurred in the capital of a particular communist country and usually included a military display and the presence of the president and the secretary general of the Party. In Poland, since 1982, party leaders led the official parades, and in 1990, May 1 was renamed "State Holiday." In Hungary, May Day was officially celebrated under the Communist regime, and remains a public holiday. Traditionally, the day was marked by dancing around designated "May trees."[55]


Labour Day ("Dita e punëtorëve") is an official holiday celebrated on May 1.


Labour Day ("Tag der Arbeit") or officially called "Staatsfeiertag" (state's holiday) and is an official holiday in Austria. Left parties, especially social democrats organize celebrations with marches and speeches in all major cities. In smaller towns and villages those marches are held the night before.


In Belgium, Labour Day (Dutch: "Dag van de Arbeid", "Feest van de Arbeid", French: "Journée des Travailleurs", "Fête du Travail"), is observed on May 1 and is an official holiday. Various socialist and communist organisations hold parades in different cities.

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 1 (Bosnian and Serbian: Prvi Maj/Први Mај, Croatian: Prvi Svibanj) is official holiday at the national level. Most people celebrate this holiday by visiting natural parks and resorts. Additionally, in some places public events are organized.


Labor Day is one of the official holidays in Bulgaria where it is known as Labor Day and International Workers' Solidarity Day (Ден на труда и на международната работническа солидарност). The first attempt to celebrate it was in 1890 by the Bulgarian Topographical Association. In 1939, Labour Day was declared an official holiday. Since 1945 the communist authorities in the People's Republic of Bulgaria began to celebrate the holiday every year. After the end of socialism in Bulgaria in 1989 Labour Day continues to be an official and public holiday, but state authorities are not committed to the organization of mass events. It is celebrated annually on May 1.


In Croatia, May 1 is a national holiday. People celebrate all over the country. In Zagreb, the capital, most people go to Maksimir Park, which is located at east part of Zagreb. In Split, the largest city on the coast, people go to Marjan, a park-forest at the western end of Split peninsula. Many public events are organized and held all over the country where military style bean soup is given out to all people as a symbol of a real workers dish and red carnations as a symbol of blood of fallen workers from the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago.

Czech Republic[edit]

In the Czech Republic, 1 May is an official and national holiday known as Labour Day (Svátek práce in Czech).


In Denmark, May 1 is not an official holiday, but most people do get one half or a whole day off. The day is celebrated in the biggest cities with speeches from politicians etc.


In Finland, 1 May is an official and national holiday. Apart from Workers' Day (officially: "suomalaisen työn päivä" or "day of Finnish labour"), it is also celebrated as a feast of students, and spring.


In France, 1 May is a public holiday. It is, in fact, the only day of the year on which employees are legally obliged to be given leave, save professions which cannot be interrupted due to their nature (such as workers in hospitals and public transport).[56] Demonstrations and marches are a Labour Day tradition in France, where Trade Unions organise parades in major cities to defend workers' rights. It is also customary to offer a lily of the valley to friends or family. This custom dates back from 1561, where Charles IX, aged 10, waiting for his accession to the throne, gave a lily of the valley to all ladies present. Today, the fiscal administration exempts individuals and workers organizations if any tax or administrative duties related to the sales of lilies of the valley, provided they are gathered from the wild, and not bought to be resold.


Georgia (a former Soviet state), because of its Soviet past, is listing 1 May as a public holiday.[57]


In April 1933, the recently installed Nazi government declared May 1 the "Day of National Work," an official state holiday, and announced that all celebrations were to be organized by the government. Any separate celebrations by communists, social democrats or labour unions were banned. After the World War II, May 1 remained a state holiday in both East and West Germany. In communist East Germany, workers were de facto required to participate in large state-organized parades on Mayday. Today in Germany it is simply called "Labour Day" ("Tag der Arbeit"), and there are numerous demonstrations and celebrations by independent workers' organizations. Today, Berlin witnesses yearly demonstrations on May Day, the largest organized by labour unions, political parties and others by the far left and Autonomen.

Since 1987, May Day has also become known for riots in some districts of Berlin. After police actions against radical leftists in that year's annual demonstrations, the Autonome scattered and sought cover at the ongoing annual street fair in Kreuzberg. Three years prior to the reunification of Germany, violent protests would only take place in the former West Berlin. The protesters began tipping over police cars, violently resisting arrest, and began building barricades after the police withdrew due to the unforeseen resistance. Cars were set on fire, shops plundered and burned to the ground. The police eventually ended the riots the following night. These violent forms of protests by the radical left, later increasingly involved participants without political motivation. (Read more: May Day in Kreuzberg)

Annual street fairs have proven an effective way to prevent riots, and May Day in 2005 and 2006 have been among the most peaceful known to Berlin in nearly 25 years. In recent years, neo-Nazis and other groups on the far right, such as the National Democratic Party of Germany, have used the day to schedule public demonstrations, often leading to clashes with left-wing protesters, which turned especially violent in Leipzig in 1998 and 2005.

May Day violence flared again in 2010. After an approved far right demonstration was blocked by leftists, a parade by an estimated 10,000 leftists and anarchists turned violent and resulted in an active response by Berlin police.[58]


In Greece May 1 is an optional public holiday. The Ministry of Labour retains the right to classify it as an official public holiday on an annual basis, and it customarily does so.[59] The day is called "Εργατική Πρωτομαγιά" (lit: Workers' 1 May) and celebrations are marked by demonstrations to which left-wing political parties, anti-authority groups and workers' unions participate. On May Day 2010 there were major protests all over Greece, most notably Athens and Thessaloniki, by many left, anarchist and communist supporters and some violent clashes by riot police who were sent out to contain the protesters. They opposed economic reforms, an end to job losses and wage cuts in the face of the government's proposals of massive public spending cuts. These reforms are to fall in line with the IMF-EU-ECB loan proposals which demand that Greece liberalize its economy and cut its public spending and private sector wages, which many believe will decrease living standards.[60]


Hungary celebrates May 1 as a national holiday, with open-air festivities and fairs all over the country. Many towns raise May poles and festivals with various themes are organized around the holiday. As with other holidays, whenever May 1 falls on a Thursday or Tuesday, the holiday officially becomes a long weekend when families take off to travel and hotels are booked full. Left-wing parties continue to hold public rallies commemorating labor day.


In Iceland the Labour Day (Frídagur Verkalýðsins) is a national holiday. However many stores nowadays are open and pay higher salaries to the workers instead on this day. A parade composed of trade unions and other group marches through towns and cities across the country and speeches are held.


May Day celebrations in Ireland, North and South, are organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Rallies take place in Belfast and Dublin and other events such as lectures, concerts and film screenings also take place around a wider May Day festival. Since 1994 a Public holiday in Ireland is observed on the first Monday in May.


The first May day celebration in Italy took place in 1890. It started initially as an attempt to celebrate workers' achievements in their struggle for their rights and for better social and economic conditions. It was abolished under the Fascist Regime and immediately restored after the Second World War. (During the fascist period, a "Holiday of the Italian labour" (Festa del lavoro italiano) was celebrated on April 21, the date of Natale di Roma, when ancient Rome was allegedly founded.) Now, May Day is an important celebration in Italy. Very popular is the Concerto del Primo Maggio ("1st of May Concert"), organized by Italian Labour Unions in Rome in Piazza San Giovanni. Every year it is attended by a very large audience and involves participation of many famous bands and songwriters. The concert is usually broadcast live by Rai 3.


First May day is an official public holiday celebrated as International Work Day (Tarptautinė darbo diena). First official celebrations appeared during Soviet occupation, but it had negative communist connotation. As Lithuania declared its Independence in 1990, Work Day lost its public holiday status, but regained in 1996.


In Luxembourg, May 1, called the Dag vun der Aarbecht ("Day of Labour"), is a legal holiday traditionally associated with large demonstrations by trade unions in Luxembourg City and other cities. Many people seize the opportunity for an outdoor picnic with family and friends, and local and national associations organize popular events for this day, among others the Festival of Labour and Cultures, organized by the Neumünster Abbey Cultural Exchange Center in Luxembourg City.


In Macedonia, May 1 is an official public holiday. People celebrate with friends and family at traditional picnics across the country, accompanied by the usual outdoor games, various grilled meats and beverages.


In Malta, May 1 is an official public holiday celebrated as Worker's Day together with the religious feast of St. Joseph (Patron of Workers). A free music event also takes place on this date. The Maltese also celebrate the membership of Malta in the European Union of 2004.


In the Netherlands, May 1 is not an official holiday. However, several left-wing political parties and organizations celebrate International Workers' Day yearly. Small demonstrations are sometimes held, mostly by anarchist and radical socialist groups. One of the reasons labour day never got established as a national holiday might have been the fact that the day that used to immediately precede it, Queen's Day, was already a public holiday in its own right.


In Norway, Labour Day or "Arbeidernes Dag" is on May 1 every year. It is an official public holiday.


In Poland, since the fall of Communism, May 1 is officially celebrated as May Day, but is commonly called Labour Day.[61][62]


In Portugal, the May 1 celebration was harshly repressed[citation needed]during the reign of António de Oliveira Salazar and Marcelo Caetano. Since the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974, the Worker's Day is now celebrated by the several leftist political parties with parades and demonstrations. The first demonstration after the Carnation Revolution, only one week after the coup, stays until today as the biggest demonstration in the history of Portugal. It remains today an opportunity for the several non-permanent workers groups to show their discontent for existing working conditions, in a parade called Primeiro de Maio (May 1). Worker's Day also represents the unionized workers that try to improve the working conditions of emigrant workers abroad. It is an official public holiday.


In Romania, May 1, known as the International Labour Day (Ziua internațională a muncii), the International Workers' Day (Ziua internațională a oamenilor muncii), or simply 1/First of May (1/Întâi Mai), is an official public holiday. During the communist regime, like in all former Eastern Bloc countries, the day was marked by large state-organized parades in most towns and cities, to which many workers were de facto required to participate. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, May 1 continues to be an official public holiday, but without any state organised events or parades. Most people celebrate together with friends and family, organising picnics and barbecues. It is also the first day of the year when people, especially those from the southeastern part of the country including the capital Bucharest, go to spend the day in one of the Romanian Black Sea resorts.


May Day was celebrated illegally in Russia until the February Revolution enabled the first legal celebration in 1917. The following year, after the Bolshevik seizure of power, the May Day celebrations were boycotted by Mensheviks, Left Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchists. It became an important official holiday of the Soviet Union, celebrated with elaborate popular parade in the centre of the major cities. The biggest celebration was traditionally organized on the Red Square, where the General Secretary of the CPSU and other party and government leaders stood atop Lenin's Mausoleum and waved to the crowds. Since 1992, May Day is officially called "The Day of Spring and Labour", and remains a major holiday in present-day Russia.


Public Holiday in Ukraine, inherited from the Soviet Union times. Ukrainian Communists and Socialists celebrate the holiday with a demonstrations, while other people go to picnicks and spring vacations.


In Serbia, May 1 (and also May 2) is a day off work and a day out of school. It is one of the major popular holidays, and only official holiday from socialist times that is still officially celebrated. People celebrate it all over the country. By tradition May 1 is celebrated by countryside picnics and outdoor barbecue. May is marked by warm weather in Serbia. In Belgrade, the capital, most people go to Avala or Košutnjak, which are parks located in Rakovica and Čukarica. People go around the country to enjoy nature. A major religious holiday of Djurdjevdan is on 6 May so quite often days off work are given to connect these two holidays and weekend, creating a small spring break. May 1 is celebrated by most of the population regardless of political views.


In Slovenia, May 1 (and also May 2) is a day off work and a day out of school. There are many official celebrations all over the country. In Ljubljana, the capital, many people go to Rožnik Hill in the city. On the night of April 30, bonfires are burned on many hills.


In Spain, the May 1 celebration was established after the death of Franco in 1975; before that, it had been celebrated during the Spanish Second Republic period (1931–1939), but it was banned afterwards by the Franco regime. The first time it was celebrated was in 1977, when the Communist Party of Spain was legalized. Since then, it has become an official holiday that has been traditionally used by trade unions and leftist parties for social and labour vindications. Commonly, pacific demonstrations and parades occur in major and minor cities.


Swedish Social Democratic Party at May Day demonstration in Stockholm, Sweden in 2006. The party has dominated Swedish politics for nearly a century. The Trade union palace in Stockholm is seen at the end of the picture

May 1 has been an important part of Swedish history since the late 19th century. The day was made a public holiday in 1938 but had been celebrated by the Swedish Social Democratic Party and the left since 1890. The first May Day celebration gathered more than 50,000 people in central Stockholm. The crowd went to hear speeches by the leading figures in the Swedish labour movement such as Hjalmar Branting (later prime minister), August Palm and Hinke Bergegren. During World War I the demonstrations mainly had a peace message and the Liberal Party also joined the demonstrations. The 8-hour working day and women's suffrage were the principal themes during the troubled times after World War I.

The May Day demonstrations are still an important part of Swedish politics for the social democrats, left-wing parties and unions who use May Day to discuss their politics. In Stockholm the Social Democratic Party always marches towards Norra Bantorget, the centre of the Swedish labour movement, to hold speeches in front of the headquarters of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, while the smaller Left Party marches in larger numbers[63] towards Kungsträdgården.


In Switzerland, the status of May 1 differs depending on the canton and sometimes on the municipality. Labor Day is known as Tag der Arbeit in German-speaking cantons, as Fête du Travail in the French-speaking cantons, and as Festa del lavoro in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

  • In the cantons of Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Jura, Neuchâtel, and Zürich, Labor Day is an official public holiday equal to Sundays, based on federal law (Bundesgesetz über die Arbeit in Industrie, Gewerbe und Handel, article 20a).
  • In the cantons of Schaffhausen, Thurgau, and Ticino, Labor Day is an official "day off" (Ruhetag). This equals in practice to an official public holiday, but is not based on federal law and cantonal regulations may differ in details.
  • In the canton of Solothurn it is an official half-day holiday (starting at 12 noon).
  • In the canton of Fribourg, public servants get the afternoon off, many companies follow this practice.
  • In the canton of Aargau it is not an official holiday, but most employees get the afternoon off.
  • In the municipalities of Hildisrieden and Schüpfheim (both in the canton of Lucerne) as well as in Muotathal (canton of Schwyz), May 1 is an official public holiday, but as commemoration day of the local patron saint, not as Labor Day. In the other parts of the cantons of Lucerne and Schwyz, May 1 is a regular work day.
  • In all other cantons, May 1 is a regular work day.

The largest Labor Day celebrations in Switzerland are held in the city of Zürich. Each year, Zürich's May 1 committee, together with the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions, organises a festival and May 1 rally. It is the largest rally held on a regular basis in Switzerland.


Flags from Istanbul may day 2012
Istanbul may day clashes in 2013
Workers marching to Taksim Square, May 1, 2012

May 1 is an official holiday celebrated in Turkey. It was a holiday until 1981 when it was cancelled after the 1980 coup-d'état. In 2010, the Turkish government restored the holiday after some casualties and demonstrations. Taksim Square is the center of the celebrations due to the Taksim Square massacre.

Workers' Day was first celebrated in 1912 in İstanbul, in 1911 in Selânik and in 1899 in İzmir. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, it became an official holiday. In 1924, it was forbidden by a decree and in both 1924 and 1925, demonstrations were intervened by arm floats. In 1935, The National Assembly declared Workers' Day to be a holiday again.[64]

During the events leading to the 1980 Turkish coup d'etat, a massacre occurred on 1 May 1977, (Taksim Square massacre) in which unknown people (provocateurs) opened fire on the crowd. The crowd was the biggest in Turkish Workers' history with the number of people approximating 500,000. In the next two years, provocations and confusion continued and peaked before the 1980 coup d'etat. The Workers' Day holiday was cancelled once again. Still, demonstrations continued with small crowds, and in 1996, three people were killed by police bullets, and a plain-clothes man who spied in the crowd was revealed and lynched by workers. On the same evening, a video broadcast on TV showed that two participants of the demonstration were lynched by far right-wing nationalist groups and this lynching occurred in front of police forces who were watching the scene with happy faces. Thus, 1 May 1996 has been remembered by workers movements.[64]

In 2007, the 30th anniversary of the Taksim square massacre, leftist workers' unions wanted to commemorate the massacre in Taksim square. Since the government would not let them into the square, 580–700 people were stopped and 1 person died under police control. After these events, the government declared 1 May as "Work and Solidarity Day" but not as a holiday. In the next year, the day was declared as an holiday, but people were still not allowed to gather in Taksim Square.[65] The year 2008 was remembered with police violence in Istanbul. Police fired tear-gas grenades among the crowds, and into hospitals and a primary school. Workers pushed forward so that in 2010, 140,000 people gathered in Taksim, and in 2011 there were more than half a millon demonstrators.

After 3 years of peaceful meetings in 2013, meetings in Taksim Square were forbidden by the government. Clashes occurred between police and workers. water cannon and tear gas have been widely used.[66]

United Kingdom[edit]

May Day activities (from 1978) are on the first Monday of the month. In the United Kingdom in recent years, the anti-capitalist movement has organised a number of large protests in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Doncaster. In London, these have resulted in clashes with the police. In 2000, the clashes ended with a branch of McDonalds being smashed and a statue of Winston Churchill being given a grass Mohawk hairstyle. The Cenotaph was also defaced with graffiti.[67][68] In the last few years, demonstrations have been more peaceful, with marches and gatherings, particularly in central London.[69] The current Conservative-led coalition government in March 2011 announced plans to move the May Day bank holiday to October in order to lengthen the tourist season.[70] A London rally on May Day is organised by the London May Day Organising Committee (LMDOC).



While unofficial activities and commemorations associated with International Workers' Day occur on May Day in Australia, Labour Day in the various states and territories generally fall on other days. Only in the Northern Territory is Labour Day celebrated on the first Monday in May, which is a public holiday under the name of "May Day".

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, Labour Day is a public holiday held on the fourth Monday in October. Its origins are traced back to the eight-hour working day movement that arose in the newly founded Wellington colony in 1840, primarily because of carpenter Samuel Parnell's refusal to work more than eight hours a day. He encouraged other tradesmen also to work for only eight hours a day and in October 1840, a workers' meeting passed a resolution supporting the idea. On October 28, 1890, the 50th anniversary of the eight-hour day was commemorated with a parade. The event was then celebrated annually in late October as either Labour Day or Eight-Hour Demonstration Day. In 1899 government legislated that the day be a public holiday from 1900. The day was celebrated on different days in different provinces. This led to ship owners complaining that seamen were taking excessive holidays by having one Labour Day in one port then another in their next port. In 1910 the government stipulated that the holiday would be observed on the same day throughout the nation.

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]