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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Greece Series at GreekPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Greek holidays and observances. I’m Michael, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 23, May 1st. In Greek, this day is called [Πρωτομαγιά].
May Day or [Πρωτομαγιά] is a holiday dedicated to spring and flowers. It is also called "International Workers' Day" or in Greek [Εργατική Πρωτομαγιά], in memory of the Haymarket workers' demonstrations in Chicago in May 1886. These workers demanded an eight-hour work schedule and better working conditions.
In this lesson you will learn about the special customs of this day.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
Do you know when the first May Day protest in Greece happened?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
May Day has its roots in antiquity. Back then the Greeks celebrated the final victory of spring’s fight against winter, something that would bring fertility and life to nature. The word "May”—in Greek [Μάιος]—itself is believed to have originated from the Roman goddess “Maia”, who took her name from [Μαία], one of the Pleiades. The word [μαία] back then meant "wet nurse" and "mother." The celebrations of antiquity were of course altered over the course of time, but they have survived today as simple folk traditions.
In Greece, the most well-known tradition of May Day is the May Day wreath or [πρωτομαγιάτικο στεφάνι]. Many people take advantage of the holiday and go on field trips in the countryside to collect wild flowers and greenery. Then people weave them into a wreath that they hang outside their doors. This tradition brings people closer to nature, even those who live in the cities. The wreath dries up and remains on the doors until the celebration of St. John in the provinces. There, people burn them in the fires typical of that day.
In many regions, May is personified with the "May child" or [Μαγιόπουλο]. In this tradition, a child decorated with flowers walks around the streets of the village, accompanied by a group of escorts, and everyone dances and sings May songs around the child. In [Náfpaktos], the May child is accompanied by elderly men who wear skirts called [φουστανέλες] and hold bells decorated with willow tree blossoms. This tradition, with a few variations, is called “pepper tree” or [«πιπεριά»] in the region of [βόρεια Εύβοια]. From the crack of dawn, the young girls of the village cover the body of a tall and beautiful young girl with flowers and ferns. They also hang a bell on her, making her the [«πιπεριά»] or “pepper tree.”
In some places, everyone hoses down this [«πιπεριά»] and sings for rain, while she bows to those pouring water on her. After she finishes her stroll around the village, it's said that rain often follows!
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know when the first May Day protest in Greece was?
It was in 1892, and started from the Central Socialist Association of [Καλλέργης]. Then another one followed the year after with over 2,000 workers demanding an eight-hour work schedule or [οχτάωρο], Sunday as a day off and public health insurance for the victims of labor accidents. Nowadays on May Day, protests are still being held, with the largest ones taking place in the center of Athens.
How did you like this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
How do you celebrate May 1 in your country?
Leave us your comments on GreekPod101.com, and we'll see you in the next lesson.

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How do you celebrate May 1 in your country?