Throughout Spain, the national holiday of El Día del Trabajador was established after the end of Franco’s dictatorship in 1975. Before that it had been celebrated during the Spanish Second Republic (1931 – 1939), but was banned afterwards by the fascist Franco regime. The first time it was celebrated was in 1977 when the Communist Party of Spain was legalised, since when it became an official holiday used by trade unions and leftish parties for peaceful demonstrations to express social and labour vindications.
History of May Day
May Day was originally a celebration of spring and the rebirth of nature dating back to pre-Christian pagan cults and the old Roman festival of Flora (flowers), and is traditionally characterised by the gathering of flowers and fertility dances around a maypole or decorated tree. Also related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Northern European festival of Walpurgis Night, May Day falls exactly six months from 1 November and marks the end of the un-farmable winter half in the Northern hemisphere, and traditionally became an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations and community gatherings in towns and villages.
As Europe became Christianised, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and All Saint’s Day. In the twentieth century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again.
Although not a public holiday in the UK, May Day is still celebrated in many towns with the crowning of the May Queen, maypoles, Morris dancing, hobby horses and local people dressed in costumes. The May Day Bank Holiday on the first Monday in May was created in 1978. In Spain, a tall pine tree is used as a Maypole, decorated with ribbons, beads, and eggshells as people dance around it singing May songs.
While May Day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures, representing the first day of summer, in the Roman Catholic tradition May is observed as Mary’s month. May Day was usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as seen in works of art where Mary’s head is adorned with a crown of flowers. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of ‘May baskets’, small baskets of sweets and/or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbours’ doorsteps.
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