May gets off a strong start with one of the biggest secular holidays of the year taking place on May 1st – International Workers’ Day. This holiday can trace it roots back to European pagan fire festivals celebrating the return of the sun at the end of winter. Nowadays however, any red on May day is likely to be in relation to the socialist movement rather than flames.
Later in the month we have Buddha’s Birthday, which is spread over several dates in south-east Asia and Memorial Day in the USA. The month ends with Ascension Day, a Christian holiday whose date depends on Easter – so even though all Easter eggs may have been eaten, Easter continues to have an influence on our calendars.
Month info: May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility.
Featured Holiday in May
May 1st: International Workers’ Day
May Day is a public holiday in many countries on 1st May. It is most commonly associated as a commemoration of the achievements of the labour movement. The holiday may also be known as Labour Day or International Worker’s Day and is marked with a public holiday in over 80 countries.
The first day of May was a pagan holiday in many parts of Europe, Its roots as a holiday stretch back to the Gaelic Beltane. It was considered the last day of winter when the beginning of summer was celebrated. During Roman times, 1st May was seen as a key period to celebrate fertility and the arrival of spring. The Roman festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and the season of spring, was held between 28 April and 3 May.
May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various communist, socialist, and anarchist groups. The 1st May date is used because in 1884 the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions demanded an eight-hour workday, to come in effect as of 1 May 1886. This resulted in the general strike and the Haymarket Riot of 1886, but eventually also in the official sanction of the eight-hour workday.
Curiously (given the origin of the 1 May date), the United States celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September (1st May is Loyalty Day, a legal but not widely recognized holiday in the United States). There is some suggestion that the reason for this was to avoid the commemoration of riots that had occurred in 1886. The adoption of May Day by communists and socialists as their primary holiday have been as a another reason as they further inceased official resistance to May Day labor celebrations in America.
Notable Holidays in May
May 8: Various: V-E Day
Victory in Europe Day marks 8 May 1945, on which day the World War II Allies formally accepted an unconditional surrender by the armed forces of Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, after six years of the bloodiest conflict in human history.
In Russia and some other East European countries, this event is marked on Victory day on 9 May. It is a day later as the treaty was signed at 10.30pm in the evening in Reims, to come into effect at 11.01pm. As Russia is one hour ahead of Western Europe, this meant it was already 9 May in Russia.
May 20: Various: Buddha’s Birthday
Buddha Purnima is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Although Buddhists regard every full moon as sacred, the moon of the month of Vaisakh has special significance because on this day the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment (nirvana), and attained parinirvana (nirvana-after-death of the body) when he died.
May 27: USA: Memorial Day
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in military service for the United States.
Many cities have laid claim to have begun Memorial Day, though President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day in May 1966.
While there is some dispute as to the origin of the day, the first was observed on May 30, 1868, under proclamation by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The first official observation involved placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
May 30: Various : Ascension Day
Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter and commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven 39 days after resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This Christian festival may also be known as The Feast of the Ascension, The Ascension of Jesus, Ascension Thursday or Holy Thursday.
During the forty-day period before he ascended into heaven, it is believed that Jesus preached and intermingled with his apostles and disciples. According to tradition, Ascension Day was first celebrated in 68 AD, however the first written evidence of the Ascension Day Feast occurred in 385 AD.
National Days in May
17 countries have their national days in May. How many people in the company do you know from each country? Remember to wish them a happy national day!
|May 01||Marshall Islands||Constitution Day: Celebrates self governance and adoption of the constitution in 1979|
|May 09||Israel||Yom Ha’atzmaut: Proclamation of independence from the British Mandate of Palestine 1948|
|May 15||Paraguay||Independence Day: Two day holiday. Día de Independencia. declaration of independence from Spain in 1811|
|May 17||Norway||Constitution Day: The signing of the first Norwegian Constitution in Eidsvoll 1814|
|May 20||Cameroon||National Day: Creation of a unitary state in 1972|
|May 20||East Timor||Proclamation of Independence day: Independence from Indonesia in 2002|
|May 22||Martinique||Abolition of slavery day: Abolition of slavery day|
|May 22||Yemen||National Day: North and South Yemen are unified as the Republic of Yemen 1990|
|May 24||Bermuda||Bermuda Day: Last Friday in May. Originally Queen Victoria’s birthday. Now celebrates the islands’ heri|
|May 24||Eritrea||Independence Day: Eritrean rebels enter the capital Asmara in 1991 leading to independence from Ethiopia|
|May 25||Argentina||May Revolution Day: This national public holiday marks the anniversary of the First Independent Government in|
|May 25||Jordan||Independence Day: Independence Day, from the United Kingdom 1946|
|May 26||Georgia||Day of First Republic: Independence from Russia in 1918|
|May 28||Armenia||Republic Day: Independence from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in 1918|
|May 28||Azerbaijan||Republic Day: Independence from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in 1918|
|May 28||Ethiopia||Downfall of the Derg Day: The Derg regime is defeated in 1991|
|May 30||Anguilla||Anguilla Day: The beginning of the Anguillian Revolution in 1967|
Throughout the month, there are days set aside to observe all sorts of events, some serious and some not so serious. These days can provide interesting ways to engage employees in diversity issues. The table below shows a selection of these days with some ideas how you could use them within your organisation.
|3rd||National Paranormal Day||Poll: Do you believe in ghosts?|
|7th||National Teacher Appreciation Day||Discussion: Who was your favorite teacher at school – and why?|
|9th||National Receptionists Day||Action: If you go past your reception area, make sure to let the receptionists know this is their day!|
|13th||Mother’s Day||Did you know? The founder of Mothers’ Day, Anne Jarvis, never became a mother. More facts on Mother’s Day|
|28th||National Flag Day||Action: How many different flags can your team at work represent? Who has the most diverse team?|