From the Head Coach . . . .: Today Is "We're-Really-Not-All-That-Different" Day
By Lane Johnson
May 1 is probably the single most celebrated day of the year. Across the world this one day has been recognized and celebrated by Druids, Christians, Communists, Democracies, Socialists, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Bar Association and Hawaiians. If that's not confusing enough for you, the French managed to assign the phrase "May Day!" when spoken three times as the international code for distress. It's a paradox because May Day is anything but distressing.
In the Middle Ages the English used May 1 to celebrate the rites of spring. Every English village had a May Pole tied with colorful streamers or ribbons. Dancers hold the ends of the streamers and sing as they weave in and out braiding the streamers into a multi-colored patchwork down the length of the pole. Children and adults alike train and practice to earn the privilege of dancing around the May Pole.
In 1928, the Hawaiians got into the act by declaring May 1 "Lei Day" to symbolize their tradition of friendliness. The traditional Lei necklace of flowers woven together became their version of the May Pole as each would place the garland of fresh flowers around the neck of a trusted friend.
May 1 is also recognized as International Workers' Day. This "red letter day", as it was often referred to by Socialist countries, is a festival for the laboring class. Communist countries celebrate this annual holiday in recognition of the working people's contribution to society.
In the early '30s in America, "Loyalty Day" was instituted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to counteract the May Day Communist exhibitions in the United States. Other patriotic organizations joined in. On May 1, 1958, Dwight D. Eisenhower made May 1 a day of national observance.
I remember May Day well as a kid growing up in Japan. The Canadian school I attended had a strong British influence. So, May Day was a cherished celebration. Those fortunate enough to be selected would practice for months in preparation for the May Pole dance. The rest of us watched in awe, dreaming of the day that we might be one of those admired performers.
May 1 was also a conflicted day, however. On that same day each year, the Communist Party in Japan celebrated International Workers' Day by parading in snake-like fashion through the streets of downtown Kobe, waving solid, red flags. We were warned to stay home. Nothing bad ever happened. But they were communists, you know, and . My parents never finished that sentence. It didn't matter. We were too busy getting ready for the May Pole celebration.
The day finally came when all my dreaming and practicing paid off. I was selected to dance the May Pole. What a proud day it was as I grasped my streamer and sang and danced around the pole watching the colors braid together. It felt odd, however, that on that same day, communists were parading with their red flags just a few miles away. I didn't know it then, but learned many years later that on that very same day, May 1, 1961, something else was happening. Thousands of miles away in my own homeland, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, under the sponsorship of the American Bar Association, established May 1 as "Law Day" to teach each of us to be guided by the statutes of state law.
So, May 1 appears to be treasured by just about everyone since before the time of Christ. The Feast of Fertility, Rites of Spring, May Poles, International Workers' Day, Red Letter Day, Lei Day, Loyalty Day, Law Day. Ironic, isn't it? No matter our politics, religion, or social bias, on May 1, we all seem to be able to agree on something; this is a good day. It's a start.
Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by e-mail at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.