It was May first and the Lahti's had guests. Sulo and Annie Lahti live on a small farm in the community of Quincy (located a few miles North of Clatskanie Or). Sulo makes a living custom farming and raising replacement heifers; Annie teaches elementary school.
The Lahti's 11-year-old daughter, Emmi, met their guests, Bill, Claudia, Doc Harry and his wife Carolyn, at the door. Emmi took their coats and escorted them to the family entertainment room in what used to be an adjoining barn.
Annie and Emmi wore crowns of woven flowers and both Claudia and
Carolyn remarked on how pretty they looked.
Both Annie and Emmi seemed pleased. Annie remarked "Today's May first, a holiday in Finland."
"Yes" chimed Emmi. "They call it Vappu and people party outside and celebrate the entire day. People all wear caps and other decorations like flowers."
Sulo snickered "They also wear masks and throw water balloons at each other."
Sulo's daughter Emmi seemed a bit surprised when she heard her dad drop this tidbit.
Nothing was said, but Annie gave Sulo a very dark look.
Doc Harry humphed "It used to be a holiday here too, until Joe McCarthy convinced everyone that it was a Socialist Commie invention and put an end to it. May 1st was proclaimed worldwide, as "International workers day" because of the Chicago Haymarket rally of 1884. The Federation of organized trades and labor held a National Convention. At Haymarket Square they tried to promote an 8-hour workday, however police and Pinkerton agents were called to put an end to this nonsense. Police fired into the crowd and someone set off a bomb. No one knows who was responsible, but many believed it was the result of agent provocateurs hired by people opposed to labor. This event was responsible for a number of dead and injured people. This event galvanized the labor movement worldwide.
Bill's wife, Claudia, spoke up. "Mayday or spring celebrations were held well before Christian times. The Romans celebrated May with a festival of flowers in honor of Flora, their goddess of flowers. Later on, Mayday became Christianized and people would decorate statues of Mary with flower crowns, just like Annie and Emmi's. Many celebrated it as the feast of St.Walburga, the man who was said to have brought Christianity to most of northern Europe"
Carolyn, Harry's wife, nodded in assent, "We used to decorate maypoles and we also used to give anonymous gifts of flowers."
Harry giggled: "Yeah, you used to leave them on people's front porches, ring the bell and hide in the bushes. "
Harry continued "We used to do that too, only we'd leave other stuff in bags on their front porches, light them, ring the bell and run"
Carolyn gave Harry a dirty look.
Annie announced that dinner was ready. "We're having a traditional Finnish Vappu (or Mayday) meal. We are eating salty foods, ham, pickled herring, salmon, with vegetables and potatoes from Emmi's garden."
Instead of drinking Sulo's wine Annie poured everyone a glass of sima; a type of Finnish Lemonade made with lemons, brown sugar and yeast. For desert Annie piled a combination of doughnuts, funnel cakes and Tippaleiväts (Mayday crullers) on a platter.
"The sweet is supposed to go with the salty," remarked Annie.
The meal concluded. People got up and began to get ready to leave.
Sulo stood up and said. "I really hate to see Mayday disappear. I think it is a nice way to greet spring. We really shouldn't have to lose a good day because of politics. I loved seeing children dancing with bright ribbons, and you have to admit that it was a kind gesture to anonymously give people flowers. I am glad that it is still celebrated in other parts of the world.
Mayday is a festival of happiness, joy and the coming of spring. I believe that this world could benefit from more happiness and joy. Don't you think so too?
As they began to leave they could hear Annie quietly say: "Emmi, this isn't Finland please don't throw that water balloon…."
Home More of Bill's Writings