May Day history & fun ways to celebrate today

May Day is celebrated on May 1st and honors not only the changing of the seasons, but also worker’s rights in the United States.

The connection between May Day and labor rights began in the United States during the 19th century. Thousands of people were dying every year from poor working conditions and long hours during the Industrial Revolution.

On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers walked out on their jobs across the country. This caused many protests to take place. Overall, they were peaceful, but on May 3 Chicago police and workers clashed at the McCormick Reaper Works. The next day a rally was planned at Haymarket Square to protest the killing and wounding of several workers by the police. A bomb was thrown, chaos ensued, and at least seven police officers and eight civilians died as a result of the violence that day.

The Haymarket Riot set off a national wave of repression. The workers’ history of May 1 was eventually embraced by many governments worldwide, not just those with socialist or communist influences.

Today, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but ironically it is rarely recognized in the country where it began, the United States of America.

Another popular tradition of May Day involves the maypole. While the exact origins of the maypole remain unknown, the annual traditions surrounding it can be traced back to medieval times. Villagers would enter the woods to find a maypole that was set up for the day and people would dance around the pole clad with colorful streamers and ribbons.

Historians believe the first maypole dance originated as part of a fertility ritual, where the pole symbolized male fertility and baskets and wreaths symbolized female fertility.

The maypole never really took root in America, where May Day celebrations were discouraged by the Puritans. But other forms of celebrations did find their way to the New World.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, May Basket Day was celebrated across the country, where baskets were created with flowers, candies and other treats and hung on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones on May 1.

May Day Inspiration

These printable flower seed packets found at are so cute and would make the perfect May Day gift for your teachers or friends!

This DIY flower cone from is so bright and cheery! Would be perfect to hang on your neighbor’s door.

These cute printables will definitely brighten someone’s day! Cut a couple flowers from your own yard, tape them on and you’re done. Find the free printable at