Labor Day vs May Day: Difference and Comparison

Some holidays celebrated worldwide are 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.

Key Takeaways

  1. Labor Day celebrates workers’ achievements and honors their contributions, while May Day has broader social and political connotations, promoting workers’ rights and advocating for fair working conditions.
  2. Labor Day is observed on the first Monday of September in the United States and Canada, whereas May Day is celebrated on the first of May in most countries globally.
  3. Labor Day is a public holiday in the countries where it is celebrated, while May Day is a public holiday and a day of protest in many nations.

Labor Day vs May Day

Labor Day, observed on the first Monday in September in the United States, honors the American labor movement and the contributions of workers. May Day, observed on May 1st worldwide, is traditionally a celebration of spring and labor, and in some countries, it is closely tied to worker’s rights and protests.

Labor Day vs May Day
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Labor Day is celebrated every first Monday of September. It is a federal holiday, observed only in the United States, in honour of the American Labor Movement.

That day is a yearly national tribute to the workers’ hard work for the well-being of their country. It started in the year 1886. The Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor promoted it.

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 labourers 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

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 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, killing 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 honour of the labourers 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 about 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.

labor day 1

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 labourers across the globe. This day celebrates labourers 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 consisted of singing, dancing, and various events and in the end, they select a May king and queen and 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 would make their skin fresh and clear of all impurities.

This belief is still present but in smaller proportions.

may day

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 honour the dead because of the violence that took place.
  2. Labor Day is completely dedicated to the labourers and workers, but May Day is also associated with the celebration of the beginning of summer and the end of summer.
  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 summer season ending, while May Day signifies the start of spring and the rebirth of nature.
Difference Between Labor Day and May Day
References
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091218299000579
  2. https://www.proquest.com/openview/29556d3c441d69443e2620038e61d8a5/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=28071

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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