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May Day And Its Origins - In Bulgaria

1st May marks yet another Bulgarian public holiday and for many institutions like schools,

banks and public offices it marks the start of a six day holiday, which ends on the 6th May.The day is often dubbed Labour Day, International Workers Day or plain old May Day; it is a public holiday celebrated not only in Bulgaria but in most countries globally, which has its origins in the union movements who fought for economic and social rights of the workforce.



Labour Day History

The holiday originates globally from the Eight Hour Day movement which advocated that the working day be limited to eight hours, leaving eight hours of free time, and eight hours for sleep, although there are various renowned economic struggles that took place on this day in history and, which are loosely remembered in the countries where they occurred. In many parts of Europe the May Day holiday is a pagan celebration, which according to the ‘old' calendar represented the first day of spring. In ancient Roman times it was a celebration for the goddess Flora.

May Day in Bulgaria

The celebration of Labour Day in Bulgaria has its roots in the communist era, when it became an official holiday in line with the dictate of the Soviet bloc, which seized the idea of a public holiday to celebrate the former struggle of the workers and the success of the socialist movement. Elaborate parades featuring government officials and the military used to take place in the capital.


In the past people used to gather in the capital before the monument to Georgi Dimitrov, the fist Communist leader to honour his achievements for the economic struggle. Celebrations of this nature took place in every city and town across the country perpetrating the communist ideology that the workers ruled the country. When the communist regime collapsed at the end of the Eighties, the public holiday remained and with Bulgarians being much more cynical about the state of affairs today, the Bulgarian celebration of Labour Day is now much more of a day to relax and enjoy the freedom from work and the start of the six day holiday. Demonstrations and marches do take place in the capital, but they tend to be small scale organised by socialist parties and trade unions. Usually the demos incorporate a programme of entertainment in the form of a pop concert.


The Shadow of the Global Crisis

This year, any celebrations are likely to be shrouded by the current global economic crisis, which has seen increases in unemployment worldwide and in Bulgaria within the construction and textile industries. Bulgaria's unemployment rate in the European Union is around 12.9% . Bulgaria has suffered further in that it cannot fill jobs in sectors like I.T. and healthcare because many Bulgarian specialists in this field have left to work aboard where they can achieve much higher salaries. Bulgarians are also the lowest paid in Europe with an average wage of 699lv.