By Dr. Mark Leier
Centre for Labour Studies
Simon Fraser University
A century later, May Day was recognized as an official holiday in 107 countries and as an unofficial labour day in others, including Canada and the United States. It is a day often marked with parades, demonstrations, and festivities, with its symbols of red flowers and red sashes signifying, in the words of historian Eric Hobsbawm, "renewal, growth, hope, and joy."1
The significance of May Day as a day of workers' celebration does not, however, lie in its recognition as an official, legislated holiday. It lies in the fact that it was originally asserted unofficially, often without legal sanction or permit, and often by rank and file workers rather than labour leaders. Workers themselves proclaimed the day; they did not receive it as a day granted by the state. In this it stands as a counterpoint to Labour Day in Canada and the US, and as a counterpoint to other holidays proclaimed by the state to mark religious and nationalist occasions.
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