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Die Geschichte vom Tag Der Arbeit Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Culture, History, Language, Traditions

Here in Germany we had a bank holiday/public holiday last Friday, on the 1st of May. This Feiertag (public holiday) happens in the whole of Germany and other surrounding countries such as Austria und Belgium.

A lot of the public holidays here in Bavaria are usually religious, such as Heilige Drei Könige (literal translation: holy three kings) and Christi Himmelfahrt (ascension of Christ), but on Tag Der Arbeit (day of work – also known as Labor Day) two different events happen. Here’s the first event:

Protests and Demonstrations for freedom for workers

These protests are originally inspired from the demonstration of the Chicago workers in 1886, who demanded to work 8 hour days rather than 12 stunden (hours), this is also known as the Haymarket Affair. The protests started peacefully but things got out of control and a bomb was thrown at the police killing seven police officers and four civilians. In 1889 there was a congress in Paris where many countries decided the first of May would become a public holiday to commemorate the Chicago workers.

In 1929 in Berlin the SPD (social democratic party) banned the traditional demonstrations for workers rights, however the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschland) let the demonstrations go ahead anyway. This ended in a bloodbath and is also known as Blutmai (Blood May). It lasted three days, 32 people died and over 80 people were verletzt (injured).

The first of May is still used for these demonstrations for freedom and rights for workers, besonders (especially) in Berlin and other large cities such as Hamburg. If you want to test your German then click here to read a German article about the protests this year in Hamburg!

Celebrating the arrival of Spring

This part of the Feiertag is mostly celebrated in Bavaria. Maibäume (May poles) are erected to celebrate the arrival of Frühling (Spring). They are usually put upright using no machines, sticking strictly to the tradition by only using their hands, wood and rope. There are also local competitions to see who has the tallest Maibaum, where some reach up to 30 metres! Another bayerische (Bavarian) tradition is where young men steal the local may pole. When they are found they will only give it back in return for a Bier (beer), in which the owners and the “thieves” will all drink Beer together.

So there was the history of Tag Der Arbeit! I think it’s interesting and important to know why we have each Feiertag, instead of just seeing them as a day where we don’t have to go to work. If you have any more questions or anything to add then drop me a comment below!


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About the Author:Larissa

Hello I'm Larissa. I live in Germany and I am half German and half English. I love sharing my passion for Germany with you through my posts! Apart from writing posts I teach fitness classes in Munich.