May Day…One Phrase with Many Different Meanings

What does May 1, May Day, mean to your students? For some it is a day to celebrate. For others it is a day to commemorate. Some may not have any associations with the date. The words “May Day” can also mean a warning of danger or a reminder to be aware that something is coming and to prepare.

Many people celebrate spring on May 1 with dancing, feasting, and selecting a May Queen. Children dance around a May Pole, wrapping it in ribbons and garlands. In some places people leave baskets of treats on the doorsteps of friends. Jennifer Cutting of the Library’s American Folklife Center discusses some of the different way to celebrate May Day in a webcast. The Library’s Picture This blog featured images from May Day celebrations. Ask students what they would include in a May Day celebration.

Rehearsing the maypole dance for May Day, health day excercises [sic]. Gees Bend, Alabama. Marion Wolcott Post, 1939

Comparison of Image of Morris Dancer with Image of Jennifer Cutting

Most of us in the United States celebrate Labor Day and the importance of the nation’s workforce on the first Monday in September. However, many people around the world mark International Workers’ Day, May Day, on May 1 with parades, marches and demonstrations in support of workers’ rights. Today in History and the Library’s In Custodia Legis blog have information on the history of International Workers Day and its connections to the Haymarket affair and the implementation of the eight hour workday.

Some of your students may be aware of these two celebrations of May Day, but even more will be aware of using the phrase “May Day” to indicate that an emergency is taking place. Students may wonder why the term “May Day” is used in emergencies and might be surprised to discover that this distress call came out of the needs of the then-expanding aircraft industry. Ask students what other terms are used to indicate an emergency and why Mayday might have been selected. After students have speculated, share the articles from the Evening Star and Cordova Daily Times with them. Ask them what terms they might have used for identify an emergency instead of May Day.

May Day 1916. Bain News Service

Pass It On Poster

In libraries and archives, “May Day,” reminds professionals of the importance of protecting the collections in their care during times of emergency. It is also a day to remember about the care and preservation of fragile materials to ensure that those materials are available for researchers in the future. Share the information about ways to preserve books in libraries found in on the Library’s Preservation Division website. May 1 is a good day to look at important documents in our homes or businesses. Encourage students to think about materials they may have at home that might be in danger if there is an emergency and what they might do to protect them.

Ask students to think about the different uses of the term “May Day.” Why is this phrase used in so many different ways? Share their responses in the comments.

Classic Children’s Books Collection Now Online at the Library of Congress

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week (April 29 to May 5, 2019), the Library of Congress has launched a unique online collection of 67 historically significant children’s books published more than 100 years ago. Drawn from the Library’s collections, Children’s Book Selections are digital versions both of classic works still read […]

Primary Sources for Musical Learning: Celebrating the Public Domain and Engaging Creatively with Primary Sources

By understanding a work’s original context, intent, message, and audience, creators can use cultural referents to frame new ideas. Public-domain classics achieve a continually evolving immortality as they are re-imagined by new generations of creative minds. Public domain works, through creative adaptation, can be used to create a commentary on the original work, engage contemporary issues, create opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue, and promote cultural change.

Celebrate Children’s Book Week with Us! Special Livestreamed Event 10am April 29th

To kick off our celebration of Children’s Book Week (April 29-May 3), we invite you to tune into our live stream on Monday, April 29th, beginning at 10 am EDT.

We will be livestreaming a special program from the Young Readers Center in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Local authors who are members of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC, will be reading twenty special children’s books from the Library’s collections.

Primary Sources for Musical Learning: Supporting and Critiquing America during WWII: Primary Sources from the Fort Valley Music Festivals

The multidimensional nature of music allows artists to explore and communicate complex perspectives. Through exploring the Fort Valley recordings, students can discern how performers connect musical elements and cultural referents to create strong, nuanced messages.

The Evolution of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”

The Library of Congress houses the largest archival collection of Walt Whitman materials in the world, all of which have are now available online. Seeing portions of Whitman’s poems in various stages of composition reveals both his very active creative mind and his innovative ways of seeing the world and crafting poetic expressions.

Starting Conversations with Students about Personal Spending, Investing, and Stewardship with Historical Receipts

In the Sources and Strategies article, we explained that receipts for personal expenses such as these – for initiation fees, annual and lifetime membership dues, taxes, and donations – can provide starting points for conversations with students about a wide variety of economic topics from personal spending to investing to stewardship, and more.