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- See: Mayday for the distress signal
The holiday is most often associated with the commemoration of the social and economic achievements of the labor movement. The May 1st 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 May 1, 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.
Celebrations in communist countries during the Cold War era often consisted of large military parades with the latest weaponry being exhibited.
Curiously (given the origin of the May 1st date), the United States celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September; May 1st is Loyalty Day 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.
May Day graffiti in Berlin. The text reads, "May 1st: Cars burn, bulls die". "Bullen" is a derogatory German term for the police approximately equivalent to "pigs" in English.
Berlin, Germany traditionally has yearly demonstrations on May Day. For reasons that are not clear, the demonstrations became yearly riots during the 1980s. Rioters have been dealt with severely by police, though in recent years an official nonescalation policy was implemented, which seems to have reduced the overall level of May Day violence in Berlin.
May Day also marks springtime celebrations such as:English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, and dancing around a Maypole.