On this day in numerous countries, cultures and cults, for centuries dating back to the Roman Republic, May Day is celebrated across the globe. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the Spring festivities. In the late 19th century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago.
Not to be outdone by the Bolshies, on this day in 1958, President Eisenhower proclaimed Law Day to honor the role of law in the creation of the United States of America, and Congress followed suit by passing a joint resolution establishing May 1 as Law Day. The commemoration proclaims “A national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Law Day underscores how law and the legal process have contributed to the freedoms that all Americans share.”
The desire to suppress the celebration of May 1, or May Day, as International Workers’ Day, aided in Law Day’s creation. May Day had communist overtones in the minds of many Americans, because of its celebration of working people as a governing class in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Thus the “establishment,” in the form of the American Bar Association, no less, fought back.
So, in Ancient Rome we observe the Festival of Flora; in Germanic countries, Walpurgis; in Roman Catholic countries many festivals of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker; in the UK they crown many May Queens.
Meanwhile back in the US, many standard-issue, middle-aged men dimly remember the limerick their fathers may have uttered this day while shaving or at breakfast; “Hooray hooray, the first of May, outdoor _______ starts today.”