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La Festa dei Lavoratori - Italian Labour Day

Updated: May 1

May 1st is La Festa dei Lavoratori in Italy, which translates to Labour Day. This year it fell on a Sunday and I was surprised to find out that if a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, Italian's don't get the Monday off. Even though it is a public holiday that if it fell on a weekday they would have had the day off.

In Europe, Labour Day was first celebrated in Paris in 1889 but Italy adopted it in 1891. It commemorates the massive demonstration held by workers in Chicago in 1886 which resulted in the Haymarket Riot where a labour protest rally turned into a riot when someone threw a bomb at police. Eight people died as a result of that riot and despite a lack of evidence against them, eight radical labour activists were convicted in connection with the bombing. Workers all over the world started to honor these activists seen as martyrs and started their own Labour Day.

Italy's Festa dei Lavoratori celebrated the common worker. From workers harvesting the field to industrial workers they banded together in unison. However in 1925 the holiday was suspended due to the fascist regime lead by Benito Mussolini who was able to pass a series of laws which dismantled the institutions of liberal democracy. The holiday was restored in 1945 after World War II.

Today Italy celebrates Labour Day by heading to the parks for picnics with family and friends, there are peaceful demonstrations and parades to honor labourers and concerts can be seen all over the country. In 2011, the largest concert was held in Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, in Rome, the same day as the beatification of Pope John Paul II. More than 1.5 million pilgrims traveled to Rome for the religious event, as well as thousands more who attended the concert.

In North America, we celebrate Labour Day the first Monday of September. We will always have the day off to remember the past labour movements that have provided us our rights for better working conditions and ensuring workers are treated fairly. Like Italy, our ancestors carved the way and we stand united.


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