Inside the Capitol

Friday, April 25, 2008

5-2 resend

FRI, 5-02-08

SANTA FE - Senior citizens remember when May 1 was May Day, a cute little celebration that I suspect began as some culture's rite of spring many centuries ago. In elementary school, we cut out flowers to make May baskets and then wound a Maypole.
A Maypole was a tall pole with long strands of different colored crepe paper attached to the top. Everyone took one end of those strands. Then boys skipped around the outside going one way and girls on the inside going the other and the May pole ended up looking very festive.
Somehow, as little kids, we never quite got the idea. But then we'd go to the gym and a high school music class, dressed in spring colors, would do it right and the long pole would look beautiful.
As a pre-schooler, I remember my mother making May baskets, probably with real flowers and some cookies and candy. My wife Jeanette says she remembers helping her mother make May baskets, which they took to little old ladies.
My mother had a different tradition. She'd load me and several baskets in the car and we'd go to homes where there was a little girl my age. I would take a basket to the door step, ring the bell and then run around the side of the house to hide.
I doubt the little girl and her mother had much trouble figuring who had left the basket because there was my mother standing on the front walk. I'm not sure what happened after that, because my part was over.
I suppose my mother went in for a glass of iced tea and the little girl and I would eat what was in the basket. Evidently, my mother wanted me to get an early start noticing girls.
That didn't work very well until I got to first grade and laid eyes on Carol Measday. From then I had girl friends for the next 16 or so years when Jeanette and I married
We've seen 47 May Days since then and likely observed each by reminiscing about the May Days of our childhood but we never have celebrated them. That isn't done anymore.
With the rise of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Cold War in the late 1940s, May 1 became dominated with shows of military might by Russia and other communist countries. They took over the May 1 date and American May Day celebrations were a casualty.
Ironically, the May 1 communist demonstrations had their beginnings in America. . In the 1880s, factory workers began protesting unsafe working conditions and 16-hour days. Across the country labor groups adopted different days and ways to air their grievances. May 1 and September 1 were popular times.
When Congress decided it was politically wise to acknowledge the power and plight of workers, it decided a national holiday would be a popular move. Congress noticed that the May 1 worker demonstrations tended to be more angry and to emphasize class struggles.
So it was an easy choice to make the first Monday in September a worker holiday. Canada followed suit. Other countries went with the May date. That definitely included communist countries.
And so a fun little May Day turned into a much blacker day for Americans to contemplate the Soviet menace. It is certainly not worth fighting to get May Day back. And it's not as though we lost a Labor Day celebration. There likely weren't many labor observances in New Mexico in the late 1940s. I know there weren't any in Deming.
Cinco de Mayo, four days later, provides much better reason to celebrate and is loved by beer companies, its main promoter. In addition, many communities have their own festivals, at about the same time, each with an appropriate local theme.
So May Days will remain merely a fond memory for us oldsters while completely fading from remembrance of younger generations.

Express yourself wherever you are. Mobilize!


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