Skip to main content

Dates for assembly

May 1 May Day rallies

Celebrations of "the dignity of labour" date from 1889, the actual day being chosen to signify the start of a bright summer of workers' rights.

Outline script Each year, the procession included tanks, rocket launchers, nuclear missiles and jet fighters mounted on lorries. In some years, a million people took part in the march through Red Square in the centre of Moscow, many of them members of the Soviet armed forces. On a platform outside the Kremlin, the leaders of the then Soviet Union took the salute. It made many people in western countries afraid of Communist military power - as it was meant to.

Years before, May Day was a rural (and pagan) festival marking the end of winter and the start of summer. In Britain, people danced round maypoles, Morris dancers performed and there were fancy dress parades. By the early 19th century, much of the population had moved from villages to work in factories in the growing cities. Conditions and hours were harsh. There was no time for May Day festivities.

In 1889, workers' leaders from all over Europe met in Paris and decided May Day should be a day of parades, demanding the working day be no longer than eight hours. Since than, many British towns have seen May Day (or Labour Day) parades, led by works bands and with each trade union marching behind its banner, bearing slogans such as "Justice for all workers" and "Each for all and all for each".

In 1978, when the first Monday in May became a Bank Holiday in England and Wales, there was opposition because it was seen as a Socialist holiday.

After the Second World War, the Roman Catholic Church decided it too wanted to show its respect for workers. It named May 1 as the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus, a carpenter and possibly also a builder. This day was meant to support working people and to help them show pride in their work.


l Create a montage or exhibition celebrating different kinds of work done by pupils' relatives - or by pupils themselves - in and out of school.

* Discuss: would you rather have a well-paid job you didn't enjoy, or a less well-paid job you enjoyed?

* In the US, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you