Dance around a flowery pole, or topple the capitalist war machine!
May 1, 2016 6:30 AM   Subscribe

"May Day: America's Traditional, Radical, Complicated Holiday," from the Smithsonian NMAH blog. Part One, Part Two.
posted by Miko (16 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Happy Loyalty Day to all my American friends.
posted by acb at 6:44 AM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lmao, in elementary school, I was freaking out about how I had to read May Pole Dances in books, but we couldn't actually erect one in our elementary school. Despite my many requests, it was a no.

I was frustrated, and instead danced around the tetherball pole, holding said tetherball in hand and trying to imitate the skipping I saw in the illustrations. Said makeshift May Day dancing did not bring me any closer to why it was a thing. What it did highlight was how restricted I felt during recess, how little physical activity I got each day, and how annoyed I was that the curriculum didn't match the rest of the school's resources. If you teach this event, then at least give me and other students outlets to really do it, right?? (I believe the next year, I witnessed another classroom do it, but I was already annoyed and disillusioned by then.)

The next time I learned about May Day, was the big Occupy May Day parade, due to International Worker's Day. That was something I wish we learned in school.

This is an excellent FPP, and lovingly points to the malleability of this day.
posted by yueliang at 6:52 AM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Google is failing me at finding my favorite May Day fact. Before 1991 the best insight to Soviet politics us worker bees ever got were the "Kremlinology" analysis of the seating chart in the Party Secretary's box at the May Day parade. That was the first most of us ever heard about Andropov and Gorbachev. Perhaps somebody can dig up a good link.

This is what I searched on: (kremlinology may day parade leadership seating chart).
posted by bukvich at 7:19 AM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Happy Loyalty Day to all my American friends.

I'm having trouble finding the quote right now - who was the awful Republican who said something like "on May Day let's take a minute to commemorate our heroic employers" this time last year?
posted by kersplunk at 7:33 AM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Friday's Democracy Now! (transcript, alt link) featured an interview about May Day with historian Peter Linebaugh who has a book out. Though I preferred the OP article.
posted by XMLicious at 7:48 AM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

We don't do any May Day celebrations in this country! No Walpurgis night, no labor celebrations, no workers of the world stuff, no socialist bacchanals, no pagan nuttin.

We call it Memorial Day and everyone must be quiet and salute the flag....
posted by CrowGoat at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2016

For those interested in toppling the capitalist war machine: May Day Across North America. Have fun out there!
posted by Gymnopedist at 9:17 AM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes. That thing, when you see a slick video showing some perfectly coordinated Morris or Maypole dancing from England.

It's fake; all fake. How do I know? I tried it today; here's what happened. Not surprising that the hawk who watched this all looked suitably unimpressed when we communed later.
posted by Wordshore at 11:29 AM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

It does require practice.
posted by Miko at 12:15 PM on May 1, 2016

To me, May Day was always a distress signal.
. . . - - - . . .
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:06 PM on May 1, 2016

No mention of people in the fields getting it on, which I thought was part of the original celebration.

We made May Day baskets at school, construction paper-cutouts with flowers pasted on, and were told to give them to a neighbor by ringing their doorbell and putting it on the handle. Which I did to nice old Mrs. Carl down the street who always let me come over and visit.
posted by emjaybee at 1:19 PM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

The annual ritual of eating my body weight in strawberries and cream while humming Bread and Roses is one of the best traditions to come from my college years (even if I was too scared to ever dare a May Pole dance.) I love the historic photos in the blog, though I'm sorry that most of the iterations of May Day are scarce in the States now.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:09 PM on May 1, 2016

Mayday is pretty massive in Minneapolis. There's a parade/party in the middle of the city with 50,000 people. It's run by hippies but it's in a chicano neighborhood near Cinco de May, so there's a lot going on... matlachines dancers, taiko drummers, dragon boats, maypole dancers, random people protesting for workers rights / socialism, the odd duck libertarians. A highlight is a dystopian "parade float" made of rusting iron that features a giant polar bear head, a skateboard halfpipe, a ferris wheel, and a whole roasting pig over a real fire -- it looks right out of Mad Max. Anyway, yeah, complicated.
posted by miyabo at 2:13 PM on May 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

I actually just came from the Minneapolis May Day Parade - this year was very heavy on the environmental message, so you got stuff like this and this (but, again, stuff like matlachines dancers and these guys, too)

Also someone made a paper mache Prince (seen in the background here), because Minneapolis.

So yeah, Minneapolis' May Day Parade is a weird amalgamation of all of the different May Day celebrations, plus a few other things tossed in.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:39 PM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I shared International Workers' Day pro-labor posts on Facebook today. I wanted to include a "Happy Beltane!" message, but I couldn't figure out if combining the two was appropriate or not. The linked articles make me feel less alone in my confusion.
posted by lazuli at 8:42 PM on May 1, 2016

Related [Seattle] and Related [LA]
posted by Miko at 8:53 AM on May 2, 2016

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