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Thursday, 13 June 2024
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Next week is Labour Day!

A bit of history

You might know already that Labour Day is an international holiday, observed on May 1st. But did you know that it takes its origins in the workers’ movement in the 19th century?

That’s right: it goes way back, to the first international congress of socialist parties, convened on July 14th, 1889, in Paris, France. It was during this gathering that May 1st was established as an annual occasion to commemorate “Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity”, and the date was chosen to echo the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions who advocated for an eight-hour workday, set to begin on May 1st, 1886.

At the time, of course, the event was highly political, and it is still today in many countries, where it is celebrated with demonstrations and political meetings, but it has also undergone a sort of “depoliticization” and nowadays most people have the day off without thinking twice about what unions did at the time.

And what about Luxembourg?

In Luxembourg, May 1st doesn’t only mark Labour Day, but also the arrival of spring and the sunny season. Traditionally, people craft wreaths of foliage and hang them at their door.

Given the typically nice weather on this day, many people seize the opportunity to get together: the weather is ideal to organise a barbecue between friends or neighbours, or to visit one of the many local markets and festivals. It is also customary to raise a glass of Maitrank! This refreshing beverage made of woodruff holds particular renown in the western regions of Luxembourg and the vicinity of Arlon, Belgium, where it comes from.

Finally, you may want to offer a sprig of lily-of-the-valley to your loved ones on May 1st. This sweet-smelling and delicate flower symbolizes the resurgence of spring and is a token of good luck. To find some, go into the woods, but be careful when picking them not to take the roots!

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