If you know why I just said "May Day" twice instead of thrice, good on you! I'll explain it shortly for the others, but perhaps you will find the rest of the post entertaining nonetheless.
it's May first, or 1 May, to put it correctly. Did you make someone a
May Basket and leave it to-day? Huh? Judas H Priest in the
archives, more musty stuff from Past Elder? Whatever am I talking
OK, maybe you've heard "May Day" as a distress
signal in the movies. So why "May Day" for a distress signal, did
something really bad happen on 1 May once? No. The expression
originated from the legendary Croydon Airport in London, which closed
30 September 1959. It was the first airport to begin what is now
called air traffic control, in 1921. A senior radio officer named
Frederick Stanley Mockford was asked to come up with something
understood by all concerned to indicate distress, a grave or immanent
danger needing immediate help.
It was to be a spoken
radio equivalent to the radiotelegraphic SOS in effect since 1 July
1908; the telephonic 9-1-1 was decades away. Since at that time most
of the traffic was between Croydon and Le Bourget airport in Paris
(that's where Charles Lindbergh would land in 1927, and is still open,
business jets only), Mockford chose the French phrase "Venez
m'aider", Come to my aid. "May Day" is an English corruption of the
Now, when given as a distress call it
is said three times, to avoid confusion since the conditions under
which it is given are likely fairly confused already. Therefore, to
honour the practice, not to mention the sensibilities of radio
operators Father Hollywood and Mrs H too, I said it only twice since
this is not a distress call.
However, May Day as a day
has long had varying significances. Well here they are. The original
May Day was a Roman (as in Empire, not Church, though it is sometimes
hard to tell the difference) festival of Flora, goddess of flowers.
The word flora is still the botanical term for plants, and is the
basis of the word for flower in Latin derived languages, such as the
Spanish flor. Floralia, the feast, happened on IV Kalends of May,
which is between what we call 27 April to 3 May, and was associated
with springtime, new life, fertility, end of Winter, all that good
Others also had Spring-is-here-hooray
goings-on. Our good friends the Germans had Walpurgisnacht, Walpurgis
Night. What in all flying Judas is that? Well the custom was pretty
common among Germanic types, like the Vikings, and included bonfires
to keep away pesky spirits and the return of light etc. Ain't got
nuttin to do with the name though. Walpurga was an English girl who
went with Boniface and some other English guys from Devon, that
southwestern tip of Mother England, whose language at the time was
Germanic so some of them set off the evangelise the German people.
She died on 25 February 777, or 779 depending on who's counting, which
was and still is in some places her feast day.
her remains were dug up and moved -- this is known by the more elegant
phrase "translation of the relics" -- on 1 May, and as the
Christianisation of Europe proceeded, that became her feast day in
many places, and the coming of light became associated with her feast
day, so that the bonfires and the clergy of the indigenous religion --
witches, pejoratively -- had to scatter with the coming of St
Walpurga's Day, May Day. Hence Walpurgis Night, the night before as a
last big blow out. No word on whether die Christine is headed for
Blocksberg, though I suspect not.
celebration is the Celtic Beltane. So, build a bonfire, dance around
the May pole -- now there's a phallic fertility symbol for you, and
related to the sacred tree thing of pre-Christian Germanic types.
Boniface (whose real name was Winifred) supposedly cut down Thor's
Sacred Oak in 723 but we still have Thor's Day, Thursday, or Donnerstag,
his German name being Donner. Or, make a May basket of sweets, but
instead of for Flora leave it on somebody's doorstep anonymously, maybe
for your own choice to be Queen of the May.
of which, that practice survives in some Catholic circles as May
crowing, where a crown is put on a statue of Mary, who has the whole
month of May dedicated to her. Wasn't always Mary though. May is
actually named from the Greek fertility goddess Maia, or Maia Maiestas
in Latin, and in Rome (as in Empire, not Church, though yeah it's
hard to tell the difference) the first and fifteenth of the month were
her holy days. Not sure what Miriam (Mary) the mother of Jesus would
think of being a reconstituted Maia, but it probably ain't good. Do
whatever he tells you, she said, and he didn't say bupkis about nuttin
Alternatively, May Day is also
International Worker's Day. This celebrates the victories of the
labour movement, especially the recognition of the eight-hour workday.
The date was chosen by the Second International, an association of
socialist and labour movements, in 1889. Why 1 May? To commemorate
the executions of some of the participants in a strike for the eight
hour day on 4 May 1886 at Haymarket Square in Chicago. Hey, didn't I
say 4 May, not 1 May? Yes I did. However this particular strike was
one of many throughout the land, as the eight-hour workday was
supposed to become standard 1 May 1886 and that is when strikes in
support of it began. On 4 May at the Chicago one, someone tossed a
bomb at the police line -- this is the origin of the phrase "bomb
throwing anarchist" -- and it is unknown how many actually died.
Among the four eventually executed by hanging for the incident, none
was the "bomb throwing anarchist".
All that said, why
not make a little basket of sweets for your sweetheart and give it to
her as a surprise. And, if you go to an eight-hour workday, remember
that the eight-hour workday didn't happen because the forces of the
market efficiently and enlightenedly produced it, but because some
people worked damned hard to bring it about in the marketplace despite
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