No matter what you call it – Labor Day, May Day, International Workers Day, Primero de Mayo – Hungarians still celebrate it with gusto and a day off from their daily toil.
Yes, it’s that time of the year again: May Day. That special day in the year when most European countries declare a national holiday to celebrate the other 364 days a year when most everyone goes to work. Throughout Europe, Labor Day, or International Workers Day, is celebrated on May 1st.
In past years this holiday was marked by parades, political rallies and speeches to celebrate workers and labor unions. Today in Hungary it means a day off (i.e., most businesses will be closed) and a celebration of spring with concerts, picnics and lots of fun and outdoor entertainment all over the country.
Celebrating Labor day in Hungary
Many Hungarian towns raise May Poles and stage festivals with various themes to honor this holiday. As with other holidays, whenever 1 May falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, the holiday officially becomes a long weekend, when families take off to travel and hotels are full. Left-wing parties also hold public rallies commemorating Labor Day. NOTE: the first of May (Tuesday) is an official bank holiday in Hungary: shops, markets and most museums will be closed. Thermal baths will be open with Sunday opening hours and public transport will operate according to Sunday/holiday schedules and pricing.
May Day in Budapest used to be a major holiday of the former regime, including parades followed by beer and frankfurters in the City Park. Today, political parties still use Labor Day to advertise their programs and recruit followers; fortunately, the first of May is now a family day with a range of festivals and programs in Budapest and other towns of Hungary.
Budapest May day Programmes
The 2018 Air Show venue will be held above the Danube, between Erzsébet Bridge and Parliament, on May 1. The Race Car Show will run from Erzsébet Square to Károly körút to Astoria and then to Ferenciek tere on April 30 and May 1.
Budapest’s largest park, Városliget hosts a festival with crafts fair plus food and drinks starting at 11 AM on April 30 and May 1. Also on May 1, Budapestians will celebrate with live concerts from early afternoon till late night in the Tabán area in Buda. You can even join an outdoor Yoga Festival on May 1st starting at 10.00 AM on the Nagyrét next to a big plane tree on Margaret Island. NB: The musical fountain at the southern corner of the island will also provide a water and music show.
May Day around the world
Many other countries and cities in the world also set aside May 1st as a special day. For example, in Hawaii, May Day is known as Lei Day to celebrate the island’s culture. In the United Kingdom, May Day is celebrated in many towns with the crowning of the May Queen. Maypoles can still be found in some towns and May Day traditions may include hobby horses and local people dressed in costumes. In Oxford, traditions are honored for May Day celebrations, starting with the choir of Magdalen College singing from the top of the chapel tower. (Trivia Question for non-Britons: What is the correct pronunciation of this college?)
Labor Day also comes from the efforts of labor union movements to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. In Mexico, it is referred to as Primero de Mayo, and is a national holiday honoring workers.
The sports and festivities held on this day symbolize the rebirth of nature as well as human fertility. In Spain, a tall pine tree is used as a Maypole. It is decorated with ribbons, beads, and eggshells as people dance around the pole and sing May songs (And how many May songs do YOU know?).