Labour Day is an annual public holiday in Greece and is known as “Ergatiki Protomagia,” meaning “May First of the Workers”.
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May 1 is also known as May Day and International Workers’ Day, and there are often workers’ rallies and strikes that take place on this day. However, there are also many festive events, some of which go back many centuries to ancient times.
Labour Day began as a commemoration of the Haymarket riot in Chicago, USA, which occurred on 4 May 1886, and it was early promoted by socialist, communist, and anarchist groups as a time to fight for the rights of the working class.
However, today, most people in Greece and elsewhere do not associate it with this background, though many do see it as a time to celebrate the contributions workers of every industry make to society and to petition for better wages and working conditions.
Labour Day is also simply an opportunity for families to get out and enjoy the spring weather and have a short vacation.
In Europe, the 1 May date of Labour Day is also significant as the date of the ancient tradition of May Day. The month of May was named for the Roman goddess “Maia,” who corresponded to the Greek goddess “Demeter.” Demeter was thought to have power over agriculture, and her daughter, Persephone, was thought to bring warm weather in her wake when she returned every May from wintering in Hades.
To this day, the Anthesteria (“flower”) festival, parades, and various cultural events throughout Greece point back to these ancient traditions.