The meanings of May Day

Wednesday is May Day. (No, not like the disaster call — that is one word, “Mayday,” and is radio shorthand for “My plane, boat or water wings have failed me and I’m about to need doctors, ambulances and somebody versed in the last rites.”)

No, the kind of May Day we’re talking about is two words and refers to the first day of this fine spring month. In places where they have one, it is celebrated as the end of winter. In places like Maui, it is celebrated as a day to be thankful we don’t have winter.

It also is recognized as International Workers’ Day, a holiday honoring the working man.

Back in the bad old days, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would use May 1 to celebrate the communist revolution by parading tanks, mobile missiles and armed soldiers through Red Square in Moscow. As we noted last year, this tactic appeared to be aimed at scaring American elementary school students.

It worked.

But, to get back to the more pleasant side of May Day, in the musical “Camelot,” King Arthur’s subjects celebrated “The Lusty Month of May” with festivals, picnics and tournaments displaying knightly skills.

To Catholics, May 1 is the start of the month that celebrates Mary, the mother of Jesus. We can remember from childhood the selection of the “Queen of the May” and a procession of young girls going up the aisle to the altar to honor St. Mary.

Here in Hawaii, of course, we recognize that May Day is “Lei Day.” It is a time to honor Native Hawaiian traditions and culture.

In any event, forget the armed Soviets — May Day is a day to celebrate. Whether your reason to celebrate is a religious one, a nod to hard work, engaging in “knightly skills” or just shaking off a cold winter, enjoy yourself Wednesday.

Happy May Day.

(Portions of this editorial have appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.


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