Like other former Yugoslav countries, North Macedonia inherited the celebration of 1 May as Labour Day from its Yugoslav Communist past. Originally, both 1 May and 2 May were off-days, there were large military demonstrations, “staged rallies” to support the state, and long speeches by government leaders. Today, the main tradition that continues is simply the Labour Day picnic.
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In 2007, Labour Day was shortened from a two-day to a one-day holiday. Before the change was made, people often took a day or two off between the weekend and the two-day Labour Day period to create around a week straight off work. Today, this can only happen when a two-day Easter holiday happens to fall close to 1 May.
The origin of this worldwide holiday is the 4 May 1886 Haymarket Massacre during a labour protest in Chicago, USA. As the world industrialised in the mid to late 1800’s, the dismal working conditions in many factories led to a protest movement.
The Haymarket Massacre became a key moment in the movement, leading to the establishment of Labour Day, then called “International Workers Day”, to demand things like an 8-hour work day, safer working conditions, and increased pay.