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May 01, 2012 at 12:43pm IST

May Day: A celebration of global labour movements

New Delhi: International Labour Day (also known as May Day or International Workers' Day) celebrates the various labour and left-wing movements across the world. It is mostly observed by holding street marches and demonstrations by working class people and their labour unions. May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries. It is also celebrated unofficially in many other countries.

Labour Day has its origins in the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. The first May Day celebration in India was organised in Madras by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan on May 1, 1923. Some records say it was also the first time the red flag was used in India.

Today, May Day is a nationwide bank and public holiday in India. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, it is officially called Maharashtra Day and Gujarat Day respectively, since it was on this day in 1960 that they attained statehood, after the old Bombay State became divided on linguistic lines.

May Day: A celebration of global labour movements

May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries. It is also celebrated unofficially in many other countries.

In the US and Canada, however, the official holiday for workers is Labour Day in September. After the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago on May 1, 1886, the then US President Grover Cleveland feared that any further commemoration of Labour Day on May 1 could become an opportunity for the American labour movement to appropriate that day and align it with global labour movements. So the US government decided in 1887 to shift the Labour Day to the first working Monday of September.

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