Just Above Sunset
May 2, 2004 Photography
May Day - From our correspondents
in Paris and Chicago...
Eugene W. Plawiuk gives us a history of May Day – originally published on May Day in
1995, in the Edmonton District Labour Council Newsletter. Here are some key points:
The international working class holiday, Mayday, originated in pagan Europe. It was a festive holy day celebrating the first spring planting.
The ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane or the day of fire.
Bel was the Celtic god of the sun.
The Saxons began their May Day celebrations on the eve of May, April 30. It was an evening of games and feasting celebrating the end of winter and the return of the sun and fertility
of the soil. Torch bearing peasants and villager would wind their way up paths
to the top of tall hills or mountain crags and then ignite wooden wheels which they would roll down into the fields
The May eve celebrations were eventually outlawed by the Catholic Church, but were still celebrated
by peasants until the late 1700's. While good church going folk would shy away
from joining in the celebrations, those less afraid of papal authority would don animal masks and various costumes, not unlike
our modern Halloween. The revelers, lead by the Goddess of the Hunt; Diana (sometimes
played by a pagan-priest in women's clothing) and the Horned God; Herne, would travel up the hill shouting, chanting and singing,
while blowing hunting horns. This night became known in Europe as Walpurgisnacht, or night of the witches.
… Mayday celebrations in Europe varied according to locality, however they were immensely
popular with artisans and villagers until the 19th Century. The Christian church
could not eliminate many of the traditional feast and holy days of the Old Religion so they were transformed into Saint days.
During the middle ages the various trade guilds celebrated feast days for the patron saints of
their craft. The shoemakers guild honored St. Crispin, the tailors guild celebrated
Adam and Eve. As late as the 18th century various trade societies and early craft-unions
would enter floats in local parades still depicting Adam and Eve being clothed by the Tailors and St. Crispin blessing the
… Our modern celebration of Mayday as a working class holiday evolved from the struggle
for the eight hour day in 1886. May 1, 1886 saw national strikes in the United
States and Canada for an eight-hour day called by the Knights of Labour. In Chicago
police attacked striking workers killing six.
… In Paris in 1889 the International Working Men's Association (the First International)
declared May 1st an international working class holiday in commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs. The red flag became the symbol of the blood of working class martyrs in their battle for workers rights.
And here was May Day in Paris this weekend, exclusive photographs provided by Ric Erickson of MetropoleParis, whose words and photographs have appeared previously in Just Above Sunset. Ric comments that Paris performed its duty with about five parades. “These are with the CGT, near Bastille. The CNT poster is from near my place.” Ric lives in the 14e arrondissement, in a place overlooking the Montparnasse Cemetery where Sartre is buried. Obviously the folks shown here are not the hyper-chic French one sees in movies like Altman’s Ready To Wear (Prêt-A-Porter), or the lovely Hollywood version of the French one sees in a Hepburn film like, Charade, Paris When It Sizzles, or Funny Face - or the utterly innocent and charming French in An American in Paris. These are just folks, working folks.
And this arrived in an email newsletter from David Applefield in
Paris -who publishes it also in Paris-Anglo -
this virtual postcard (une carte virtuelle) appeared in my email on May Day, addressed to my cat Harriet – from
a cat named Rufus in Chicago.
Here’s Rufus – and the owner of Rufus – or guardian or keeper or companion or whatever term is correct these days – add this: Rufus' full name, by the way, is William Rufus, after the English king and son of William the Conqueror, who was killed when he was shot in the eye with an arrow in the New Forest. My mother named him, so don't blame me. And the keeper of this beast adds that Rufus is almost as deranged at he looks.
Were Rufus in Paris he’d hang out here, of course – another photo from our correspondent in Chicago.
Also our correspondent in Chicago adds this shot – from a rue de Rivoli protest. The picture was taken in July of 2002 when I was wandering up and down the street, killing time while
waiting for the Tour de France to come through. The building was across the street
from the Metro stop there, I think. I think there's some graphic arts people
or someone in there, and I would like very much to know what they were protesting.
it be the photo of the façade on rue de Rivoli in this photo is related to this "Rivolitionary On Rivoli" item from Ric over at MetropoleParis? "One of the signs the artists' have
made says, ‘C'est la Rivolition!’ None of the big-bucks commercial
establishments on this part of Rivoli have a better slogan."
Ah, revolutionary protest
But I’m not sure what kind of protest this is – as our correspondent in Chicago finds a dragon in the middle of the Medici fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens in the 5e arrondissement in this public domain photograph found on the web. (My more conventional shot is appended.)
But to end this madness our correspondent in Chicago offers this tree peony shot. And this bloom would be in Chicago, not Paris.
From last week's home page...
SIGN OF THE TIMES:
This issue updated and published on...
Paris readers add nine hours....