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Happy May Day
May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic anthems were blasting from the loudspeakers including the Soviet anthem “Coyuz Nerusimij.”
We all had to Partake in the May Day parade. Those who didn’t participate got later into trouble at work or in school.
Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.
But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”
The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”
First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.
And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.
I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.
New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?
Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.
Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like Czech Republic.
However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.
I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.
I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.
But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.
They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.
It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.
Watch for more upcoming May posts.
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