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May Day: Facts About The May 1 Holiday

First Posted: 05/01/11 01:22 PM ET   Updated: 07/01/11 06:12 AM ET

Although it's not recognized in the U.S. or Canada, May Day is one of the biggest bank holidays elsewhere in the world.

While it conjures up images of maypoles and folk dances, the holiday has gone through a radical transformation over the centuries. Originally a pagan celebration called Beltane (which translates roughly to "day of fire"), May Day is observed as "Labor Day" or "International Workers' Day" in many countries, and organized street demonstrations and marches by working people and their labor unions are common.

In the case of Hungary, Poland and other East European nations, May Day is considered a remnant of the Communist era, when party leaders greeted crowds of workers.

View facts about May Day below:

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The pagan name for May Day is Beltane, which means "day of fire," and was meant to mark the coming of summer and fertility. It was an important festival in the Celtic calendar, while a similar celebration called "Floralia" was marked on the Roman calendar. Over time, the rituals of Beltane and Floralia were overlapped and are still practiced today.

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Filed by Curtis M. Wong  |