A Goddess, Pimples and the Eight Hour Day

As most of the industrialised world prepares to celebrate 1st May what exactly is it we’re celebrating?

Firstly, there’s the Goddess.

Flora is the mythological Roman goddess of flowers and the spring. Traditionally her festival was celebrated in April or early May, symbolising the renewal of the cycle of life. This was marked with dancing, drinking and flowers. Apparently it was given over to merriment and celebrations of an amorous nature and gained a reputation as being licentious and abandoned  – may have to re-think my traditional barbeque!

Secondly there’s the pimples:

It was a May day tradition in UK for young girls to get up early, rush outside and wash their faces in the morning dew. Apparently this would improve their complexion, getting rid of pimples, spots and imperfections…. so, set your alarm clocks early girls!


Finally, the eight hour day:

May Day, also known as ‘labour day’, is celebrated by most of the industrialised world, except for the country that initiated it!

A  resolution was unanimously adopted by the trade and labour unions in the United States to  enforce an eight hour working day from 1May 1886, on which date huge rallies and protest marches were peacefully carried out. Sadly there followed a further 2days of protesting, resulting in violent demonstrations and a bomb being thrown in Haymarket Square, Chicago where nearly 12 people, including a few police officers, died and about 100 people were wounded.

The rebels did not achieve an immediate result, and indeed many were arrested and sentenced to hanging, but slowly their movement gained momentum  across the globe. Most employed people had to wait until the early or mid twentieth century for the changes to be implemented but eventually an eight hour day became the standard for many countries around the world. ( 1938 for the United States who, incidentally,  celebrate their labor day on first Monday in September!) 1st May, or the first Monday in May, became a ‘Labour Day’ celebration for the rest of us, and is popular as a day for rallies, processions and speeches.

So, as you embark on your Bank Holiday week-end in UK, or Labour day celebrations wherever you may be, you’ll know what to celebrate. Whether you choose the goddess, pimples or the eight hour day I hope it’s a welcome break and that you relax, re-charge, and move positively into the start of a new season.



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