Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hooray Hooray The First of May

Oh for heaven's sake get you mind's out of the gutters!  I'm not talking about that dirty rhyme from high school (I'll leave that to YDG) but of the celebrations throughout much of the world that are taking place today.

May Day has its origins in pagan fertility rites in the Northern Hemisphere - okay so maybe that old rhyme wasn't that far off the mark!  It was normally a celebration of the feast of some goddess or other who symbolized the regeneration of spring.  Of course the Christian church appropriated it, as was its wont (god I've always wanted to write that phrase, finally I get the chance) and it became the first day of the Month of Mary, though in Germany it was celebrated as the infamous - according to the Faust legend -  Walpurgis Night named after an English missionary to the pagans, Saint Walpurga

Maypoles, round dancing, May baskets all were traditions that sprang from pagan customs and seem to have crossed many borders or maybe its just that after long winters practising fertility rites there are only so many ways you can celebrate the coming of spring.  It was also the time when labourers had finished spring planting and where given a holiday - coincidentally (?) May 1st of St Philip and St James, the patron saints of labourers though in 1955 St Joseph was given the added task of looking after labourers as well.  This was a move to combat the emergence of left wing movements in Europe and in particular Italy after the Second World War.    The old Pagan-Christian traditions had started to fade in the late 1800s and into the 20th Century as May 1st began to be celebrated as International Workers' Day

And it is celebrated in over 80 countries as a national holiday with marches, rallies and demonstrations - sometimes peaceful, sometimes not.  Though the first Monday in September is traditionally  Labour Day here in North America it appears from the news today that there were May Day demonstrations - some of which turned violent. There were rallies and demonstration in here Canada but it appears none of them took a violent turn - even those in Montreal which has had its share of riots and unrest the past month or so.

Which brings us to this little poster that's been appearing around town the past few days encouraging public servants to attend a rally against the austerity measures that have been introduced in the past few weeks.


I won't comment on the politics around what is happening here in Ottawa, as anyone who knows me will know where I stand, but rather on the poster itself.  It is firmly in the style of the labour posters so popular in the 1950s.  And the symbolism of Mr Monopoly being toppled like some Middle Eastern or Soviet dictator has a delicious irony.  Even the events have a slightly 50s flavour to them - a Community supper and Music Festival.  Perhaps it is a sign of the times and current events that we are returning to the labour movements of the 50s. 

01 May - 1869: The Folies Bergère opens in Paris.

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2 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yes, people were supposed to call in sick today to protest the 1%. Wonder how that went?

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

wussy..you know you want to