1st of May: Labour Day or Celebration of Spring?

1st of May: Labour Day or Celebration of Spring?

Whichever way one sees it, the result is the same: A public holiday, not only in our country but in most countries of the world.

Just as during most other holidays, children are the protagonists of that day, which you can understand by going for a walk in the countryside. Holding flowers in their hands and with smiles and happiness all over their faces, they remind us that the May Day is one of the most beautiful holidays. 

Even though it does not have any religious character, the May Day has its origin in a pagan holiday of the past.  The fact that this day falls in the northern hemisphere halfway between the spring equinox and midsummer, marks the beginning of spring and flowers are honored.   

There are various traditions and customs for that day in Greece. The most renown is making a wreath, typically made from handpicked wild flowers. These wreaths are hung on the doors or balconies of every house where they remain until the 23rd of June.

The island Corfu, is known for another tradition, the so-called “Maioxylo”. The residents of the villages gather around a cypress trunk which is covered in daisies and encircled by a wreath of green branches. The young workers, who are all dressed in white, wearing red scarfes around their necks, carry the Maioxylo through the streets, singing songs about the May.

In other parts of the country, the fire jumping is a practice that should keep away illnesses and ensure a good health. Children and women of older ages gather in the eve of the May Day and open up fires out of dried wood after sunset. The women dance around the fires and sing traditional songs.

In Epiros, on the eve of the May Day, the children walk through the gardens hitting on cooking devices and speaking out magic spells to repel snakes.

Another custom is the resurrection of the “Maiopoulou”, which is common in areas like Volos, Zagori, Kastanias of Stymaflia, etc. In other areas of Greece it is known as “Fouskodendri” or “Zafiris”. A teenager of the village pretends to be the dead Dionysus and the daughters of the village sing the “Kormo” to him, with the purpose to resurrect him as well as the whole nature.

Where will YOU be “catching the May”?

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