The Thing About Today – May 1

May 1, 2020
Day 122 of 366


May 1st is the 122nd day of the year. It is May Day, an ancient festival of Spring celebrated in many European cultures, stemming from the Roman festival of Flora (Floralia) which was in honor of the goddess of flowers. Germanic cultures celebrate Walpurgis Night, Gaelic cultures celebrate Beltane, and European and North American cultures crown the Queen of May with a dance around the maypole.

It is unrelated to mayday, the codeword used to signal a life-threatening emergency.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Loyalty Day, National Mother Goose Day, National Chocolate Parfait Day, Law Day, School Principals’ Day, Silver Star Service Banner Day, National Space Day, and School Lunch Hero Day. The last two are typically observed on the first Friday in May.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1328, the Wars of Scottish Independence came to an end as the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton, England recognized Scotland as an independent state.
  • In 1759, Josiah Wedgwood founded the Wedgwood pottery company in Great Britain.
  • In 1786, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro was performed for the first time in Vienna, Austria.
  • In 1840, the Penny Black was issued in the United Kingdom. It was the first official adhesive postage stamp.
  • In 1852, frontierswoman and professional scout Calamity Jane was born.
  • In 1866, the Memphis Race Riots began. Over the next three days, 46 blacks and two whites were killed. Reports of the atrocities influenced the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions demanded the eight-hour workday in the United States.
  • In 1886, rallies were held throughout the United States demanding the eight-hour workday, culminating in the Haymarket affair in Chicago. In commemoration of this event, May 1 is celebrated as International Workers’ Day in many countries.
  • In 1894, Coxey’s Army arrived in Washington, D.C. It was the first significant American protest march, held to protest the unemployment caused by the Panic of 1893, to lobby for the government to create jobs which would involve building roads and other public works improvements, and to have workers paid in paper currency (which would expand the currency in circulation).
  • In 1915, the RMS Lusitania departed from New York City on her 202nd and final crossing of the North Atlantic. Six days later, the ship was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland with the loss of 1,198 lives.
  • In 1916, actor and producer Glenn Ford was born.
  • In 1919, actor Dan O’Herlihy was born.
  • In 1930, “Pluto” was officially proposed by the for the name of the newly-discovered dwarf planet. Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh and the name was suggested by Vesto Slipher.
  • In 1931, the Empire State Building was dedicated in New York City. It was the tallest building in the world until the North Tower of the former World Trade Center was completed in 1970.
  • In 1939, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27.
  • Also in 1939, Max Robinson was born. He was the first African-American network television anchor.
  • In 1945, singer-songwriter Rita Coolidge was born.
  • In 1946, actress, voice-over artist, author, and activist Joanna Lumley was born.
  • In 1954, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer Ray Parker, Jr. was born.
  • In 1956, the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk was made available to the public.
  • In 1971, Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) took over operation of United States passenger rail service.
  • In 1972, actress Julie Benz was born.
  • In 2009, same-sex marriage was legalized in Sweden.


May 1 is Today is Lei Day in Hawaii, a statewide celebration that was established in 1929.

Lei Day is a celebration of Hawaiian culture, also known as the aloha spirit. People commonly celebrate by giving gifts of leis to one another. Schools also put on plays and elect a Lei Day court of Kings and Queens to represent the different islands. Each island has a different lei made from their respective special flower: Each island in Hawaii has a special flower that represents that island.

  • The island of Hawaiʻi (more commonly known as The Big Island) has the red ʻōhiʻa lehua blossom.
  • The island of Maui (The Valley Isle) has the Lokelani flower, also known as the Damask rose, which is pink and sweet-scented. The associated lei is very fragile.
  • The island of Oʻahu (The Gathering Place) is associated with the ʻilima flower. The lei made from this yellow flower is very thin and even more fragile than Maui’s. It is often called the “Royal lei” because of its past association with high chieftains.
  • The island of Kauaʻi (The Garden Isle) has Mokihana kukae moa fruit. The purple berries are strung around and leave a blossoming smell that can only be found on this island.
  • The island of Molokaʻi (The Friendly Isle) uses the silver-green leaves of the kukui tree, which is also the state tree of Hawaii.
  • The island of Lānaʻi (The Pineapple Isle) has a grassy orange flower called kaunaʻoa, which are gathered in groups and twisted together to create the lei.
  • The island of Niʻihau (The Forbidden Isle) offers the Pūpū keʻokeʻo, which are white shells that are plentiful on the small island. The shells have to be pierced with small holes to be strung.
  • The island of Kahoʻolawe (The Target Isle) houses the Hinahina kū kahakai, a silver-gray flower found on the beaches. The stems and flowers of this plant are twisted together to be formed the lei.

The importance of the lei to the Hawaiian culture is that it is meant to represent the unspoken expression of aloha. On the surface, it’s a word for love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy that is commonly used as a simple greeting. Going deeper, however, there’s a cultural and spiritual significance to native Hawaiians that defines a force that holds existence together. In fact, the state introduced the Aloha Spirit law in 1986 to mandate that state officials and judges treat the public with the proper spirit.

For Lei Day, the idea is that although the lei lasts only a while, the thought and spirit lasts forever. Other than the use of leis on Lei Day, they are incorporated into special occasions such as graduations, weddings, and birthdays. They originate from Polynesian voyagers sailing from Tahiti, and have been used in peace agreements.

The lei comes with a set of unspoken rules such as wearing it over your shoulders and not removing it while around the person that gave you the lei. Refusing a lei is seen as disrespectful.

Lei Day also incorporates various ethnic traditions, balancing the celebration of diversity with the struggle of preserving native Hawaiian culture.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.




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