A pagan festival celebrating the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere, whose origins extend back to the Roman empire, May Day goes by different names in different places. It has been coopted variously by the Roman Catholic Church and the Socialist Workers’ Movement. In some places it’s a holiday while in other places it’s not. (Aside: it’s also the source of a funny line from the 1980 comedy Airplane.)
Thanks to (I assume) a combination of European colonialism and the general human inclination toward any excuse for a day off work, May Day is now celebrated in places as far-flung from the Roman Empire as India and China, and parts of Central and South America, where May 1 is definitely not the beginning of spring.
The fact that May Day (and other holidays) has been so widely adopted and for different reasons demonstrates that humans are ritual animals. Whether it’s pagan rituals tied to the solar calendar or social or political observances, there is something deep within the human psyche and consciousness that responds to a rhythm, or a dance, or a narrative that is not of its own making or choosing.
Usually, we are the storytellers. Sometimes, it seems that the stories tell us.
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