Monday, May 1, 2006

from Captain Wallbank's Almanack

The ancient world celebrated the First of May, or "Beltane," as the First Day of Summer. Often, the two days fell on the same date on the calendar, but in those rustic times when information was cheap and records were kept in runes on the back of a prize hog, there were discrepancies. Sometimes May Day actually fell on the 12th of April, or sometime in June, if you had one. The modern month of "May" was actually not invented until Roman Consul Aprilifer May Junius won a drinking bet and secured the honor of having a new month named after him. Since "April" and "June" were taken in prior contests, "May" was inserted and thus the fifth month was born. This confused some bad translators, so "May" was known as "Can" until the 8th Century, when Emperor Istanbul (who later changed his name to Constantinople) needed a month to go after Wälpürgïsnächt, a night of bonfires named after Saint Walburga, the patron saint of bonfires. To commemorate the survivors, May Day was christened, and schoolchildren and other simple folk (like TV pagans, Renaissance Faire devotees, and amateur theatrical players) enjoy festivities celebrating the Earth and such, like maypole dancing and stockcar rallies. May Day’s modern significance is as "The Workers’ Holiday" or "International Workers’ Day" or "Commie Marching Bastards And Their Unions And Strikes And Contracts What Ruined This Great Nation Sonny Day." Whatever you or your red-baiting McCarthy Era uncle call it, it seems to have originated as a remembrance of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago Illinois in 1886. Hay workers in Chicago demonstrated in order to secure their eight-hour workday. The demonstration consisted of a strike and riot that lasted exactly 8 hours (including smoke breaks and lunch with the gals from the office). The American Labor Force (what The Justice League of America was called, before AquaLad and the WonderTwins) insisted that May Day be the official date for any other such demonstrations. Besides the May Day Riots of 1894 and 1919, you may recall the May Day Sit-Down of 1891, the May Day Muttering Bellyache of 1904, and the May Day Hairy EyeBall for Management of 1938. So, your Summer begins with Laborers’ Day and ends with Labor Day. (Somewhere in those months of paddlin’ up the crick, enjoyin’ lemonade on the porch listenin’ to the ball game, and plottin’ the next swelterin’ nighttime gang-related drive-by, we lose an "er." And mo’s the pity.)

Captain Wallbank’s Almanack is not intended to be used as reference material for school projects, masters theses, magazine and newspaper articles, partisan hack radio talk shows, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink.

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