An international holiday that is a little different everywhere. About the origin and meaning of the holiday.
This red-letter day came to Hungary, like to other Eastern European countries, from the Soviet Union. But it has much more history than that.
A factory owner, Robert Owen, announced the workers’ claim. Until then, there were 10-16 hours of working time during the British Industrial Revolution in 1817. The workers wanted to reduce this to 8 hours with the slogan “Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest”. This is in line with famous Hungarian rocker Fero Nagy’s most quoted refrain. The British initiative was still unsuccessful.
Finally, 30 years later, in 1847, the working hours of women and children were maximized at 10 hours a day in Great Britain and its colonies.
The strike of Australian bricklayers and construction workers was again for the introduction of 8-hour working days in 1856. Their campaign was successful. Not even their pay was reduced despite the shorter working hours, so for the first time in the world, an organized group of workers, in other words, a trade union, managed to achieve any success without retortion. This success also inspired Labor Day and going maying.
On the 1st of May 1886, workers’ trade unions also organized a strike to introduce eight-hour working hours in Chicago. This has already ended less successfully with 11 deaths (7 police officers and 4 protesters).
In 1889, the II. Internationale (International Union of Workers) was organized in which it was decided that on the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the strike in Chicago, on the 1st of May 1890, trade unions and other workers’ organizations would march together nationwide for the introduction of eight-hour working days.
The 1st of May was first declared as the “Warrior Festival of the International Coalition of the Working Class” in the United States in 1891.
In 1904, at the Congress of Amsterdam, a call was issued for all workers to strike on the 1st of May to introduce eight-hour working days.
With the rise and growth of international socialist, trade union and labor movements, the rights and opportunities of workers have expanded. Thus, the traditional workers’ holiday has gradually grown into a national holiday in many countries around the world.
It is a national holiday since 1894 in the United States and Canada. But this holiday is held in North America on the first Monday in September.
In Germany, Hitler declared the 1st of May a paid national holiday in 1933.
Communist regimes treated the 1st of May as an exraordinary holiday. Following the communist takeover, for political reasons, the original “workers’ holiday” was changed to “labor holiday” in the countries that make up the Eastern bloc.
The 1st of May has been a national holiday in Hungary since 1946. After the regime change, the name of Workers’ Solidarity Day got the “Labor Day” name. Like most of the countries of the world, this day is still an official holiday in Hungary. The putting up of maypoles is not related to the celebration of work.
Today, the 1st of May is a public holiday in more than 160 countries.