May Day in America: Mostly a Time to Celebrate Nature's Labor


HOST: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Music by The Shins …

A question from a listener about May Day ...

And a report about the recent anniversary of a famous fast-food company.

McDonald's Anniversary

What business that began with one eating place in the American Midwest now has thirty thousand fast-food restaurants all over the world? The answer is McDonald's, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary earlier this month. Barbara Klein has more.

BARBARA KLEIN: Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's in Des Plaines, Illinois, near Chicago, on April fifteenth, nineteen fifty-five. Before starting McDonald's, Mister Kroc sold machines that mixed milk and ice cream to make a popular drink called a milkshake. The new restaurant sold hamburgers and fried potatoes called French fries also. McDonald's workers prepared this food very quickly. People waited only a few minutes for their food.

That first McDonald's was torn down in nineteen eighty-four. The company built a copy of it in the same place to serve as a McDonald's Museum. It contains the equipment used to prepare food during the restaurant's first days of operation.

On the bottom floor of the museum, visitors can see early advertisements, other McDonald's objects and a short movie about the company. The museum does not sell food, however. Visitors can go across the street to eat at a modern McDonald's.

Today, thirty thousand McDonald's restaurants in more than one hundred countries serve food to almost fifty million people each day. But McDonald's has many critics. They say the company pays its workers too little. They also say the restaurants serve food that is not healthy because it contains too much fat and sugar.

Last year, an American filmmaker ate nothing but McDonald's food for one month. He made a movie about his experience called "Super Size Me". Doctors who examined the young man found that eating McDonald's food had damaged his health. The food caused weight gain, increased blood pressure and cholesterol and damage to his liver.

After the movie's release, McDonald's announced that it would stop selling extremely large meals. During its fifty years, McDonald's has added more kinds of foods. It still sells milkshakes, French fries and hamburgers. But it has added salads, chicken sandwiches, yogurt, and breakfast food.

May Day

HOST: Now it is time for a listener question. Ngoc Toan of Vietnam asks about the meaning of May Day in the United States.

This Sunday, May first, is May Day. Many countries honor workers and the labor movement on May Day. But the United States celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday in September. May Day events in America are mostly a celebration of nature.

May Day is one of the oldest holidays around the world. Experts say many ancient peoples chose May first to celebrate the re-birth of nature in springtime. The Romans held a festival of flowers on the first day of May. Their celebrations became tradition in Britain, Ireland and Scotland. May Day celebrated the beauty of spring after a long, cold winter.

In Ireland and Scotland, May Day was one of the most important holidays of the year. On May first, people gathered flowers before sunrise. They sang and danced as they returned home. Then they decorated their houses with the flowers.

In England, villagers picked flowers and then gathered in the center of town. They chose a young woman as May Queen. She sat in a special area surrounded by flowers. The people performed for her. They sang, held competitions, sports events and parades. They placed flowers on a tall piece of wood called a Maypole. They placed the pole in the ground and danced around it.

In early America, Puritan settlers from England did not approve of such activities. So they did not celebrate May Day. But settlers from other countries in Europe brought May Day traditions to America.

In some parts of the country, children still dance around a Maypole. They collect flowers and give them to friends and family members.

Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania has been holding May Day celebrations since nineteen hundred. Students at the all-female college gather flowers early in the morning. They attach long colorful pieces of cloth to the top of a Maypole. They dance around the Maypole holding the ribbons. Later in the day, the students hold a more modern event to celebrate freedom and equality for women. They release thousands of flower petals into the air.

The Shins

An American band called The Shins has created its own kind of pop rock music influenced by the songs of the nineteen sixties.

The four young men in the group are from the state of New Mexico. They have been together since nineteen ninety-seven. Faith Lapidus has more.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The Shins have had two successful record albums. This song is from their album "Chutes Too Narrow." It is called "So Says I."


The band mixes independent rock with popular music to make its own kind of sound. This song mixes country music and modern pop. It is called "Gone for Good".


The members of the group now live in Portland, Oregon. They are performing around the United States through most of this year.

The Shins became more popular after their music was in a recent movie called "Garden State." In the movie, two of the characters listen to the band's music in a hospital waiting room. We leave you now with that song, "Caring is Creepy".


HOST: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

This show was written by Ed Stautberg, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer. The audio engineer was Carl Starling.

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Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.