On the night of May 1st 2011, President Obama took to the air to make an announcement that was both somber and celebratory: "Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children."
May 1st is also known as May Day—celebrated around the world but for different reasons depending on the country or even the state. In Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day—a celebration of Hawaiian culture. Here in Los Angeles, May Day historically recognized the labor movement but in recent years has become more symbolic of immigration reform. Large rallies are expected throughout the city today.
Labor is also celebrated internationally on this day, but under the name International Workers' Day or Labour Day (Unlike Labor Day in the U.S. which is celebrated annually on the first Monday in September).
Predating all of these holidays, however, is the Celtic/Gaelic festival of Beltane. It is a celebration of the Earth and the arrival of summer, marked by bonfires, dancing, and costumes. Beltane is a lively and joyous ancient tradition that is known to be embraced by pagans and Wiccans.
Interested in celebrating May Day today but don't have a maypole* handy?Maybe you'll consider bringing back the neglected tradition of hanging a May Day basket. Filled with the abundance of springtime—flowers and treats—these colorful baskets were gifted and hung on people's doors as a gesture of warmth and affection.
*In Scandinavia a maypole is called a midsommarstang. In Finland, however, it's not a pole but a Parisian statue that revelers gather around in Helsinki. Known as Vappu in Finland, the two-day celebration kicks off with the crowning of the Havis Amanda statue on Walpurgis Night (May Day eve).
Tonight's bar trivia: The distress call, "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" has nothing to do with May 1st. It's derived from the French term m’aidez or m'aider, meaning help me.