May Day is one of those odd pagan festivals that springs from spring fertility rituals, including sexual immorality (like dancing around the maypole, a typical phallic symbol) related to the fertility of one’s crops and animals, one whose roots spring to heathen Northern and Western Europe, especially the Germanic and Celtic cultures . It is a traditional bank holiday for obscure reasons, and despite its obvious pagan roots it is a holiday that has not attracted a great deal of attention from those who typically rail against pagan festivals, perhaps because it seems less obvious than other pagan holidays, even if its customs are no less heathen.
So, how did an obviously pagan custom get turned into the International Worker’s Day, a socialist Labor Day holiday that is kept around the world (not in the United States, though), even in places like Thailand that have little connection to the heathen rites of the ancient Germanic and Druidic religions? As it happens, there is a very clear connection, but one that is rather unflattering to socialism, and one that (for whatever reason) is not often discussed by those who claim to hate both socialism and heathen practices. So, it is therefore my place to discuss this matter today, given that it has strong historical conclusions and relates to my strong interests in religious practices.
From its rites as a pagan fertility feast full of sexually immoral practices, May Day was a traditional festival for anarchy over the centuries. It was one of those days where people let their hair down and were freed from the usual moral behaviors. As a festival of anarchy it was rather like that of Songkram  , where fornication and small acts of revelry and chaos were seen as part of the fun. Without trying to sound too much like a Puritan, I can certainly understand why the festival was banned in the early New England colonies, because it is clearly pagan in nature, belonging to the anarchical side of heathen worship practices.
It was therefore unsurprising that anarchists among the left-wing labor movement in the late 19th century thought that the cover of general license given to anarchy for May Day would also provide a good excuse to agitate for worker’s rights. In 1886 in Chicago, the so-called Haymarket Massacre occurred when someone anonymously threw dynamite at the police and (unsurprisingly) the police fired back at labor demonstrators, killing a few demonstrators as well as police officers. As a result, seeing these anarchist hoodlums as some sort of martyrs, the workers’ Second International in 1890 declared the day International Worker’s Day . As a result, the general attitude of a nation toward socialism can be judged by its feelings about May 1st as Labor Day. Thailand, along with most of Europe, China, and many Latin American countries, keep May 1st as Labor Day. The United States keeps Labor Day in September. That says all you need to say about the deeper cultural opinions of America about socialism compared to the rest of the world.
And it makes sense why anarchist, communist, and socialist elements would want to co-opt a heathen festival of anarchy for their own purposes. After all, they are all a part of that same strand of heathen ideals, in seeking to disrupt and overturn social orders (just as an equally strong strand of heathen ideals believes in crushing all liberty in authoritarian hierarchical rule). And we ought not to let our hatred of paganism and socialism, those twin scourges, lead us into the open arms of fascist demagogues either. Nonetheless, if one is opposed to pagan festivals, one needs to be consistent and to speak out against the heathen nature of International Worker’s Day, especially once the connection of anarchy as a link between it and May Day makes it a very popular and enduring worldwide celebration that pretends to honor the worker while instead being a cause for chaos and dissipation going back to ancient paganism.