National holiday on May day – free bean soup and picnics

Also in Croatia, as in many countries around the world, May 1st is a national holiday. Everyone is free and traditionally people with family or friends go outside for picnics and BBQs, and as it is usually very nice weather this time of year,  it is nice to enjoy a day out in nature. In addition to the traditional BBQ, a picnic is organized in many places by political parties and other organizations, where brown bean goulash or soup is served with bread for free.
In the Maksimir park in the capital Zagreb, more than 50,000 portions of bean soup is distributed to the many people who come. Brown beans are seen as a real worker’s meal, that’s why it is served on this day.

But why is May 1st a holiday?
This day is to think of the poor working conditions of workers, such as in factories and coal mines. Since the late 19th century, more attention has been paid to working conditions and labor rights. Not only men, but also women and children worked for low wages under bad conditions – there was no right to vacation, sick leave, no limited working hours per day or free days. At one point workers had enough and went to strike. In Chicago (USA), one of the largest workers strikes took place on May 1, 1886, with 80.00 people on the streets – the main point was that they wanted a fixed eight-hour working day.

Before the end of the 19th century, when May 1st was associated with the uprising of the workers, it was a holiday to celebrate springs arrival. With traditions like the May Day pole with ribbons and dancing girls with spring flowers around it. The gates of the houses were decorated with spring flowers and branches. But with the introduction of communism in eastern Europe this ancient tradition has gone and now we celebrate May 1st as a day of labour.


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