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01 May 2024, 09:00

Belarus celebrates Labor Day

MINSK, 1 May (BelTA) - Today Belarus celebrates Labor Day. It was established by the decree of the Belarusian president on 26 March 1998.

For a long time, 1 May was celebrated as the International Workers Day. This page in the history of the holiday began in the 19th century with workers' marches. The first marches took place in Australia on 21 April 1856. The movement soon spread to cities in the United States and Canada. 

On 1 May 1886, workers in the city of Chicago (Illinois, USA) organized a strike demanding an eight-hour working day, which ended in mass riots. Three years later, in July 1889, the Paris Congress of the Second International (an international association of socialist workers' parties) decided to establish 1 May as the International Workers Day and proposed to celebrate it annually with demonstrations. That was how May Day came to many countries: in 1890, rallies were held in Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, the USA, France, Italy, Sweden and some other countries. In the Russian Empire, this holiday was first celebrated in 1890 with the May Day workers’ strike. A little later, May Day celebrations became widespread here. 

In 1891, by the decision of the Brussels Congress of the Second International, countries were given the right to independently establish the date and format of the May Day celebrations. From that moment on, demonstrations in the UK and some other countries were moved to the first Sunday in May.

In Belarus, the holiday of 1 May was first held in 1895 at a secret meeting of workers. By 1905, it spread across Belarusian cities and became massive. But with the outbreak of the First World War, the number of rallies decreased significantly.

In 1917, 1 May was celebrated openly for the first time. A year later, after the October Revolution, the holiday became an official holiday and non-working day.

May Day was celebrated with extraordinary solemnity and pomp. A military parade was held on Moscow's Red Square until 1968. It was the draw of the holiday. It had an aviation show which was first held in 1933. During the Great Patriotic War, air parades were put on hold. The tradition was revived in 1946 and continued until 1956. After that military hardware was not used in the festivities. Since 1969, the May Day demonstrations featured thousands of people of various professions who marched through the main avenues in all cities of the USSR shouting "Hurrah!" and slogans about peace and labor and carrying flowers, balloons and banners. 

1956 marked the first television broadcast of the parade on Red Square. Since then, the solemn event was broadcast annually by Central Television. On this day people used to go out: they gathered in parks, gardens, courtyards to sing, dance and celebrate spring.

In 1970, May Day officially became International Workers' Day. It was also called the Spring Festival. Indeed, it was a spring festival heralding the arrival of warm weather after long winter months. People rejoiced at the renewal of nature and went to the demonstration together. After the demonstration, people went to visit each other. In the days of the USSR, May Day was a great joyful event, which was eagerly awaited and carefully prepared. 

During the years of perestroika, May Day events stopped. The last such march in the history of the Soviet Union took place in Moscow on 1 May 1990.

Belarus has carefully nurtured the May Day tradition. In March 1998, according to the presidential decree, the International Workers Day was renamed into Labor Day and declared a non-working day. May Day is still celebrated on a grand scale with rallies, entertainment events, attractions, fairs, and concerts featuring pop stars. At the state level, the best workers, trade union activists and labor veterans, enterprises and their teams that excel in work are honored across the country on this day. On this day, it is customary to sum up the results and outline the prospects. For most residents of the country, 1 May is a good occasion for pleasant meetings and family holidays. Today, each of us meets and celebrates 1 May in their own way. But many still remember the legendary slogan "Peace! Labor! May!"
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