Labor Day takes place every May 1 in most countries worldwide. It’s an annual holiday dedicated to celebrating the achievements and rights workers have earned over the years. It has its roots on the so-called eight-hour day movement, which advocated the division of the day into three blocks of eight hours each: eight for work, eight for recreation, and eight for sleep.

Labor Day, or Tag der Arbeit in German, is also a public holiday in Austria. The celebration itself dates as far back as to 1820, when the Habsburgs started driving their horse-drawn carriage through the Viennese Prater. 70 years later, the first May marches would start taking place. In addition to the eight-hour work day, these rallies called for more social justice and things most of us now take for granted: a universal suffrage, a longer weekend break, old-age and disability insurance, among others. Nowadays, in addition to political rallies, a “May Day Festival” is celebrated at the Prater, with a free of charge program for both grown-ups and the little ones.

As with most holidays, everyone tends to celebrate it their own way. Last year we asked panagendians what they did for the Austrian National Day. This year, we thought we’d ask them how they kept themselves busy on Labor Day.

What Do You Do On Labor Day?

Michael Hafner, Information Security Officer

“For my grandfather, labor day was the most important holiday of the year. He was a very proud railway worker (steam engine machinist) and a passionate union member for most of his life. So, on this day, I remember him, normally black from soot and oil, as he is the man who took over the role of a father for me and my sister. Dressed in his best suit and went with us out for lunch. We continue this tradition and after a long walk we have tea or coffee at home – and always a freshly baked “Striezel” (Hefezopf), which was one of his favorite homemade pastries (or is it bread?)”

Bruna Novo, Social Media Marketing Specialist

On May Day I really enjoy going to my favorite Heuriger (a local Austrian tavern), if they are open. I’ll enjoy a fruit Bowle (a punch) with my meal and afterward, have a Punschkrapfen (a nougat and jam-filled sponge cake) with no guilt. If they are closed, a long walk in the Setagayapark, a blooming Japanese garden in Vienna with some vegan ice cream, will ensure the day is relaxing and fun.”

Weingut und Buschenschank Ott, a Winery/Vineyard tavern in Hagenbrunn, Austria © Weingut und Buschenschank Ott Facebook Page
Weingut und Buschenschank Ott, a Winery/Vineyard tavern in Hagenbrunn, Austria © Weingut und Buschenschank Ott Facebook Page

Henning Kunz, COO

“I’ll be partying it up at the traditional Hexennacht shindig at Rhinekilometer 550 in the Middle Rhine Valley. We’re talking music, dance, wine, and a crowd of happy people kicking off the warm outside season! The best part? We’re inaugurating the season’s Weinhexe (wine witch) – how cool is that? I can’t wait to join in the festivities, let loose, and soak up the community spirit of this awesome event.”

Markus Sablatnig, CTO

 I don’t really do anything special on May 1st, just the same I would do on any other unexpected day off: go for a nice long walk, have some good food, enjoy some time gaming with friends.

Volksgarten in Vienna, Austria. © Yevheniia at Unsplash
Volksgarten in Vienna, Austria. © Yevheniia at Unsplash

Sandra Bointner, Accountant

“This year we have a “Feuerwehrheurigen”. The fire department prepares games for children, such as splashing water, sitting in the fire truck, and the most famous part: building and climbing the highest tower made of crate (crate stacking). We also eat traditional “Wiener Schnitzel” or “Grillhendl”. In late afternoon the fireman set up the “Maibaum” (the May tree). Then we relax while drinking wine from the winemaker of the village and eating the typical food of a Heuriger.”

Christoph Adler, Head of Solution Consulting EMEA

“Up here in the north we call it “Tanz in den Mai”! The “Maibaum” will be set up at our “Dorfplatz” and then there will be a big party tent and lots of food and drink trucks around. So that means a lot of talking, drinking, eating and of course dancing (there is a band) into the May. All that happens the night earlier. On May 1st you can come back (which is about 1minute from our house) for “Frühschoppen” => we usually skip that and get into our garden to enjoy the weather (hopefully), a bit of gardening and finally a nice BBQ with the Family”

Femke Goedhart, Product Marketing Manager

“May 1st is officially marked as the day of labour in the Netherlands but not something that is actively celebrated tbh. For me and for most it’s simply a normal working day and in general there aren’t many activities organized. This is partly due to our political system and partly because we have several national holidays around the same time, with one big one: Kings Day (formerly Queens day). This is traditionally held on the birthday of the reigning monarch and was set to April 30th in 1949 with then queen Juliana’s birthday and kept on April 30th by her daughter Beatrix when she took over because her birthday was in January (which is not a particularly good time for outdoor celebrations). In 2013 King Willem Alexander took over, and as his birthday is on April 27th we now celebrate it a few days earlier. So for the last 80+ years or so we have a celebration at the end of April instead of May 1st. Kings Day celebrates our national identity with everyone wearing weird orange outfits (referring to the royal household’s last name: Van Oranje) but also kind of marks the start of spring/summer with lots of outdoor activities and music. I tend to spend Kings Day visiting music festivals, outdoor markets and just enjoying the day with friends. And of course, we have to have the typical Kings Day treat: An orange tompouce (pastry)!”

An orange tompouce, a typical Kings Day treat in The Netherlands
An orange tompouce, a typical Kings Day treat in The Netherlands

A Few Concluding Words

In conclusion, Labor Day is an important reminder of the labor movement’s importance and the rights of workers worldwide. It is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of workers, acknowledge their struggles and sacrifices, and continue upholding social justice and fair treatment of all workers.