Information is from KRP’s The Ultimate Holiday Activity Guide distributed by the NIE Institute
May Day (cultural/religious)
The first day of May marks the traditional arrival of spring and has been celebrated as a holiday in Europe since ancient times. It was often marked with spring festivals, dancing around the Maypole, and the gathering of flowers — traditions that continue today. In the United States, such May Day festivities are usually reserved for schoolchildren.
Since the 1880s, May Day has also been a workers’ holiday, or Labor Day, in most countries, evolving from the struggle for the eight-hour work day. It resembles the U.S. Labor Day holiday in September.
The Puritans, members of a religious and social group that spread to the United States when it was first settled, disapproved of the May Day festivities. Therefore, the holiday has never been celebrated with enthusiasm in the United States.
Ask students to research this ancient holiday to find out why the Puritans disapproved of May Day. Then have them assume the identity of an American settler and write an editorial or letter to the editor that might have persuaded the Puritans to rethink their position and allow May Day festivities to proceed. Prior to the assignment, point them to the editorial pages in the newspaper for examples of persuasive writing.