May Day: What Is International Workers Day? History, Facts, Workplace Activities And Celebration Ideas

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By Misbah Mushtaq

May Day: What Is International Workers Day? History, Facts, Workplace Activities And Celebration Ideas

International Workers’ Day, also known as Labor Day or May Day, is a celebration that honors the achievements and contributions of workers worldwide. It’s a day dedicated to recognizing the struggles and sacrifices made by countless individuals who have fought for better working conditions, fair wages, and workers’ rights throughout history.

Today, International Workers’ Day is celebrated in various ways around the globe. In many countries, it’s a national holiday, with parades, rallies, and speeches organized by labor unions, political parties, and community groups. These events often feature vibrant displays of solidarity, with workers from different sectors and industries coming together to voice their demands and celebrate their achievements.

May 1st is an official national holiday in over 80 countries across the globe. Some of the major countries that celebrate include:

  1. India
  2. China
  3. Russia
  4. Mexico
  5. Brazil
  6. Germany
  7. France
  8. Spain
  9. Italy
  10. Turkey
  11. Greece
  12. Portugal

In other countries like the United States and Canada, labor unions and left-wing groups typically organize rallies and protests on May 1st even though it is not a national public holiday.

International workers day celebrations at workplace

May 1st: International Workers Day History

On May 1st, we celebrate International Workers’ Day, also known as Labor Day or May Day. This annual event has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the late 19th century, when workers around the world were fighting for their basic rights and better working conditions.

The roots of International Workers’ Day can be traced back to the Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886. During this time, workers in the United States were demanding an eight-hour workday, a concept that seems reasonable today but was a revolutionary idea back then. On May 1st of that year, thousands of workers took to the streets in peaceful protest, marking the start of a pivotal moment in the labor movement.

Unfortunately, the Haymarket Affair took a tragic turn when a bomb was thrown during a rally, resulting in the deaths of several police officers and protesters. While the circumstances surrounding the bombing remain unclear, this event became a rallying cry for workers’ rights and sparked a wave of protests and strikes across the world.

In the aftermath of the Haymarket Affair, labor activists and leaders from various countries came together and declared May 1st as International Workers’ Day. This date was chosen to commemorate the sacrifices made by the workers in Chicago and to honor their fight for better working conditions and fair treatment.

Over the years, International Workers’ Day has evolved into a global celebration of the labor movement and the rights of workers. In many countries, it is recognized as an official public holiday, with parades, rallies, and speeches organized by labor unions, political parties, and community groups.

As we look back on the rich history of International Workers’ Day, it’s important to remember the sacrifices made by those who came before us and the ongoing struggles faced by workers around the globe. By celebrating this day, we honor their efforts and renew our commitment to creating a more just and equitable world for all workers.

Importance of Worker’s Day: Why is May 1st called International Workers’ Day?

The history of May 1st being designated as International Workers’ Day stems from the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886. This was a rally supporting workers’ strikes for an eight-hour workday that turned violent after a bomb blast.

In 1889, the first congress of socialist and labor parties designated May 1st as an annual holiday to honor the Haymarket martyrs and the workers’ rights movement. This kicked off celebrations and protests by trade unionists and radical socialists on May Days across the world.

Over time, International Workers’ Day on May 1st became an official holiday commemorating laborers and the working classes in many countries. It’s a day to celebrate workers’ achievements in securing protections, fair treatment and better conditions through labor movements.

So in essence, the origins of calling May 1st “International Workers’ Day” directly tie back to the late 19th century labor uprising in Chicago that advanced the workers’ rights cause globally.

How to Celebrate International Workers’ Day

This annual holiday has been observed for over a century, originating from the labor union movement in the late 19th century. Workers around the world united to rally for better pay, reasonable hours, and safer conditions. Their efforts laid the groundwork for many of the labor laws and workers’ rights we enjoy today.

So how can you celebrate and show your gratitude? Let’s go over some fun and meaningful ways to observe May 1st.

1.  Relax and Recharge 

At its core, International Workers’ Day is about taking a well-deserved break from the daily grind of work. Use this day as an excuse to unwind and recharge your batteries, whatever that looks like for you. 

If you have a job that allows it, consider taking the day off and doing absolutely nothing. Sleep in late, lounge around in your pajamas, read a book, catch up on your favorite shows. Give your mind and body a chance to fully rest after weeks of hard work.

For those who can’t take the day off, build in other restful activities whenever possible. Take a long bath, get a massage, go for a leisurely walk—anything to relax and reset. Disconnect from work emails and calls for a while. Your work will be there tomorrow, this is your day!

2. Celebrate the Workers in Your Life

One of the best ways to honor International Workers’ Day is by celebrating the hard workers in your own life. This could be a parent, spouse, sibling, friend, coworker—anyone whose daily efforts you admire and appreciate. 

Simple gestures can go a long way to make someone feel valued. Bake their favorite treats and leave a kind note. Surprise them with a coffee delivery to their workplace. Give them a small gift card for a massage or dinner out. Write them a heartfelt card expressing how much their work ethic inspires you.

You can also use this day as an excuse to finally lend a helping hand. Offer to take a dreaded chore off their plate, like mowing the lawn or running errands. Cook them a nice meal so they don’t have to worry about it after a long day. Little acts of service show how much you appreciate their efforts.

3. Support Your Local Workers

In addition to honoring individual workers, look for ways to celebrate workers in your community too. Visit local businesses and leave generous tips for exceptional service. Thank the cashiers, servers, baristas and everyone working to keep things running smoothly. 

You could also look up local organizations that support workers, join advocacy groups, or attend Labor Day parades and rallies. Educate yourself on current workers’ rights issues. See if there are any volunteer opportunities to get directly involved.

At home, consider buying from companies that treat their employees well. Look for “fair trade” certifications and worker-owned businesses. Search online for brands with exceptional labor practices and ethics codes. Your consumer dollars make a big difference.

International Workers’ Day Activities and Celebration Ideas at the Workplace

Celebrating International worker’s day at the office helps boost morale and brings people together. It’s a fun way to take a break and bond as a team. Even small gestures go a long way in making your colleagues feel valued.

Not sure where to start? Check out these creative activity and celebration ideas to help make this May Day extra special around the workplace:

1. Start With the Basics

Before planning any big festivities, it’s good to understand the meaning behind International Workers’ Day. This holiday originated in the late 1800s when laborers protested for better working conditions and workers’ rights.

Their efforts led to reforms like reasonable hours, workplace safety rules, and ultimately an official day to honor workers each year. While the celebrations look different around the world, the spirit remains the same—to recognize and appreciate hard work.

In many countries, May 1st is an official public holiday with parades, rallies, and festivals. In others, like the United States, people observe it in smaller ways within their own communities.

No matter how you choose to celebrate at your job, start by educating yourselves and your coworkers on the history and significance of this global day.

2. Plan a Work Celebration

One of the most obvious ways to celebrate International Workers’ Day in the office is by throwing some kind of fun employee party or gathering. This could be as big or small as you want, anything from a full-blown office party to just an extended lunch period.

Keep it laid-back and casual with a relaxing outdoor picnic or luncheon. Cater in some tasty food or do a big potluck with dishes from different cultures. Open up a beer or wine tasting bar for people to unwind at their desks.

You could also organize group games or activities to encourage team bonding and comradery. Trivia contests, office Olympics challenges, scavenger hunts around the building—get creative and have some laughs together! Hand out silly awards and prizes at the end.

If your workplace is more professional or can’t spare too much working time, you could keep things bite-sized. Plan a short ceremony to give speeches and recognize standout employees. Host an after-work happy hour offsite. The options are limitless!

3. Surprise Them With Treats  

Who doesn’t love being showered with a few treats and surprises? This Workers’ Day, go above and beyond to appreciate your coworkers with some fun giveaways and goodies around the office.

One simple idea is giving out snack baskets or meal vouchers so everyone can take a break to refuel. You could do a breakfast or lunch delivery right to their desks. For morning people, a coffee truck could come on site to pass out free drinks.

Come up with themed giveaway bags or boxes full of self-care items to help people relax and recharge. Things like stress balls, candles, face masks, tea samplers and more. Get creative with it! Small tokens show you value their well-being.

You could also host little raffles or prize giveaways throughout the day. Hand out branded office swag and gear like t-shirts, mugs, or accessories. Really go the extra mile in showering people with fun surprises.

4. Get Out of the Office

If possible, one of the best ways to celebrate Workers’ Day is by getting your crew out of the usual office grind. Look for opportunities to take the team on a fun field trip or outing for the day. It’ll serve as a much-deserved break and change of scenery.

For example, you could all go see a comedy show or hit up an arcade for some games and friendly competition. An escape room activity tests problem-solving skills in a fresh environment. Even just hunkering down at a sports bar for lunch and drinks could lift spirits.

If you can’t manage that big of an event, get creative with smaller outings. Go for a team walk around the block or do an outdoor activity like frisbee in the park. See if there are any local street fairs or festivals that day your group could check out.

Getting people out of the usual work grind is super refreshing. It’ll give your team a chance to relax and have some fun together.

5. Give Back to the Community

International Workers’ Day can also be a prime opportunity to get your employees engaged in some community giveback efforts. After all, this holiday represents the working people who keep society running each day.

Look for local organizations or nonprofits focusing on workers’ rights, labor conditions, skills training and other relevant causes. You could volunteer as a group for the day, whether that’s assisting with events, doing neighborhood cleanups, packing supplies or raising donations.

If volunteering isn’t possible, look for other ways to support those in need within your community. Gather supply drives for shelters, sponsor a family for the month, or donate a group monetary gift to a good workers’ charity.

These giveback activities help reinforce the meaning of May Day while bringing your team together for a good cause. It’s an empowering way to celebrate the holiday.

6. Implement Work-From-Home Perks

For many of today’s workers, their “workplace” is a home office or remote setting. That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate them on International Workers’ Day too! Get creative with virtual activities and perks to honor their daily efforts.

You could host an online game night full of stupid prizes and camraderie. Bring in a virtual fitness instructor for a group exercise or yoga session. Put together a talented award ceremony to highlight top performers. Even just giving everyone a paid day off helps people reset!

Send your remote employees fun care packages or subscription box deliveries. Include snacks, self-care products, gift cards to local restaurants and more. Everyone loves getting surprise mail, especially if it’s full of treats!

The possibilities are endless when celebrating remote employees. Think outside the box and help them feel appreciated from afar.

International workers day celebrations at workplace


International Workers’ Day is all about honoring the hardworking individuals that keep the world running. Whether with big celebrations or small tokens of appreciation, taking that extra step goes a long way.

This May 1st, don’t let the efforts of your team go unnoticed. Plan something special to bring people together, show your gratitude, and reinforce the true meaning of this global labor holiday. After all, where would we be without our dedicated employees?


When is International Workers’ Day celebrated?

International Workers’ Day is celebrated annually on May 1st around the world.

Which countries celebrate International Workers’ Day?

Over 80 countries across the globe officially observe May 1st as a national holiday, including India, China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Portugal. Other countries like the United States honor it in smaller community gatherings.

Why is May 1st called International Workers’ Day?

The origins trace back to the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886 when laborers rallied for an eight-hour workday. In 1889, an international congress of socialist and labor parties designated May 1st as a annual holiday to commemorate workers’ rights movements, kicking off widespread May Day celebrations globally.


  • Misbah Mushtaq

    Misbah Mushtaq, a creative soul and expert storyteller, has been weaving words into impactful narratives for over three years. On Fiverr, she's known for her compelling blogs that not only engage the audience but also resonate with their heartbeats. Misbah's writing is a tribute to the spirit of teamwork and the quiet dedication that fuels progress. Outside of work, she finds joy in the simple pleasures of life, reflecting the same warmth and appreciation in her interactions with the world around her.

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