May Day: Festivities around the world

May 1 is May day, and here in Hawaii it’s called Lei Day. Most of the islands’ schools are off today, and surfers will likely be in the water (as the first legitimate south swell of the summer season is here). You will find me and most of the Oahu’s daytime party goers celebrating Lei Day in Kapiolani Park, on the eastern end of Waikiki. There, between 9-5, will be a lei making contest, good old fashioned hula and musical performances, as well as plenty of food and locally made gifts.

Lei Day is all about giving and receiving aloha — and wearing leis that are one of eight colors, each representing one of Hawaii’s eight major islands. At Barack Obama’s (and my) alma mater, Punahou School, there is a grand Holoku pageant that features a royal court and lots of Hawaiian music and Polynesian dancing.

In other parts of the world, May Day means something rather different:

  • In England and other parts of Europe, a Queen of the May is crowned, and there is dancing around a maypole to celebrate the first day of summer.
  • My students tell me that only in Zurich (but not in other cities in Switzerland), there right-wing groups riot in the streets.
  • In other countries such as Greece and Australia, today is International Workers’ Day, kind of like the U.S.’s Labor Day (in early September)
  • Finally, in (post-)Communist countries like China and Russia, there are formal parades in the streets to celebrate the people’s earnest work.

However you celebrate today, I hope you receive a little “aloha.” Welcome to summer!