Today Iceland celebrates Labor Day, as is celebrated in many countries across Europe. Also referred to as May Day, it has been a national holiday in Iceland since 1966 and is one of the country’s 11 flag days.
If the weather is good, families may take advantage of the day off and engage in outdoor activities. Archive photo: Páll Kjartansson.
The day’s origins can be traced back to Paris in 1889, when the international union of communists celebrated the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution.
It was decided to make the day a day for the unions and a day to honor workers. May 1 was chosen in memory of the Haymarket riots in Chicago, US, which took place in May 1886.
In Iceland the day was first celebrated with a demonstration on May 1, 1923. Today, workers sporting red flags still march to call for improvements to their wages and working conditions.
May 1 is also a heathen holiday and in Scandinavia it is considered the last day of winter when the beginning of summer was celebrated.
In Sweden it is also a Christian celebration; the Mass of Saint Walburga or Walpurgis Night is celebrated on the eve of May 1.