Difference Between Labor Day and May Day

Some holidays celebrated worldwide are often confused with one another due to several reasons. One of them is the confusion between Labor Day and May Day. Labor Day and May Day are two different days celebrated for completely different reasons. Sometimes the two days can refer to the same thing, but in reality, they’re not.

Labor Day vs May Day

The main difference between Labor Day and May Day is that Labor Day is celebrated in honor of laborers and various workers. It should be noticed that the term ‘labor’ is far more grueling and tiresome than it was today. While May Day is created for the historic struggles and gains made by the workers.

Labor Day vs May Day

Labor Day is celebrated every first Monday of September. It is a federal holiday, observed only in the United States in honor of the American Labor Movement. That day is a yearly national tribute for the workers’ hard work for the well-being of their country. It started in the year 1886. It was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor. The two groups decided to parade on May 1, 1886, but what was first started as a peaceful protest later turned out to be violent, resulting in the death of many workers. So, the celebration day was shifted from May 1 to the first Monday of September.

May Day came into existence in the late 19th century to celebrate laborers and also to celebrate the start of summer. It was known as International Workers’ Day in remembrance of the workers’ protests against long working hours, demanding to lessen the working time, but, what they started as a peaceful protest turned violent resulting in the death of as many as 7 people. While May 1 is also the start of summer, so, everyone also celebrates that day to mark the beginning of summer.

Comparison Table Between Labor Day and May Day

Parameters of ComparisonLabor DayMay Day
DefinitionNational tributes to the workers for their strength, dedication, and for the well-being of their country.As a remembrance to the dead because of the violence.To celebrate the beginning of summer.
Celebrated inUnited StatesWorldwide
Type of holidayFederal holiday and state holidayNational holiday only in some countries
Celebrated onFirst Monday of SeptemberMay 1
BeganWas promoted by the Central Labor Union and Knights of Labor, who started the first parade.May 1, 1886. Can also be said to have started in Pagan times.

What is Labor Day?

The unions in New York’s city decided to do a parade to celebrate the fact that their members were in unions and to show support to all the unions in September 1886. At most, around 20,000 people attended, including the workers, who had to leave their day’s payment to attend the rally.

A bomb exploded in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886, resulting in the death of 7 police officers and 4 other people. That single incident turned a peaceful rally into a bloodbath. The New York unions decided to celebrate in honor of the laborers on the first Monday of September to avoid having it on May 1.

Labor Day is officially one of the eleven federal holidays celebrated and known nationwide all over the United States. All the government places are closed on that day and all federal employees are paid even on their day off.

There is a lot of confusion on who founded Labor Day. While some believe it was Peter J. McGuire who was a general secretary of the brotherhood of carpenters and also the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor in 1882. While some others believe that it was Matthew Maguire who brought upon the holiday in 1882 while working as the secretary of the Central Labor union in New York and later became the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey. However, both Maguire and McGuire were invited to participate in the first Labor Day parade in New York.

What is May Day?

On this day, people from all across the globe conduct protests and march for the rights of workers and to save them from exploitation. International Labor day is seen as a public holiday in many countries. This day is dedicated to all various workers and laborers across the globe. This day celebrates laborers and teaches them to be aware of their rights. It is known and celebrated in various countries.

But in medieval and modern Europe, May Day is a holiday associated with springtime and marking the beginning of summer. It originated in ancient agricultural rituals and was brought in by the Greeks and Romans to appease their gods.

The day usually consisted of singing, dancing, and various events and in the end, they select a May king and queen, then dance around the Maypole. It was first a popular and traditional ritual to ensure the fertility of crops and then, by further extension, humans, and animals too.

But this belief soon stopped and it was just deemed a popular holiday in memory of their old rituals. They also used to believe washing their face with dew early morning on May 1st will make their skin fresh and clear of all impurities. This belief is still present but in smaller proportions.

Main Differences Between Labor Day and May Day

  1. Labor Day is celebrated as a tribute to the workers for their strength and dedication to the well-being of their country while May Day is celebrated to honor the dead because of the violence that took place.
  2. Labor Day is completely in dedication to the laborers and workers but May Day is also associated with the celebration of the beginning of summer and the end of spring.
  3. Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September while May Day is celebrated on May 1.
  4. Labor Day is a federal and state holiday observed only in the United States while May Day is a national holiday and is observed in many countries.
  5. Labor Day signifies the unofficial ending of the summer season while May Day signifies the start of spring and the rebirth of nature.

Conclusion

Labor Day started in the year 1886 which was started by the various unions in New York. The protest went on peacefully. But later in the Haymarket Square of Chicago on May 4, 1886, which led to the death of many police officers and civilians. So, this day was later observed as a Remembrance Day in tribute to everyone who lost their lives. The unions of New York decided to celebrate it on the first Monday of September to avoid celebrating on May 1.

May Day is known all across the world where the people do protests and march for the welfare of all the laborers and workers to enlighten them about their rights and to save them from exploitation. It is a national holiday, known in many countries across the globe. It is a public holiday where all government places are closed and the federal employees get paid leave.

May Day is also seen as a day to celebrate the beginning of summer. This belief originated in ancient agricultural rituals by Greeks and Romans who celebrate this day to appease their gods for the fertility of their crops, and, by extension to all humans and life forms too. Although this belief was short-lived. There was also another belief that washing one’s face in the morning of May 1 with dew will make their skin clearer and be rid of all impurities. This belief was short-lived too.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091218299000579
  2. https://www.proquest.com/openview/29556d3c441d69443e2620038e61d8a5/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=28071
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