Spontoonie May Day Celebrations
May Day on the Spontoon Atoll is a citizen's festival, with major celebrations on 1 May and the Saturday (or Sunday) following. Some group activities (such as visiting tours or camping trips) may stretch into the week following 1 May.
What you would see during May Day on the Spontoon Islands:
These are holidays about and for workers. You would see festive clothes, even when people are at work. Wearing leis and flowers are common. Off work, you might see a few more elaborate holiday costumes, such as dance group costumes. For May Day, people might wear their usual festive clothes, but with colored accessories, most often in red or black.
"May Day is red lei day": Workers may wear flowers or leis on the job. You will see people wearing large buttons and badges for their union, syndicate or village committee. Sometimes they will wear badges on red sashes. Red armbands can be a symbol of the celebration. "Workmen's clothes" like overalls and caps may be worn, even if not typical for the job. Otherwise, festive tropical wear is common: bright tropical prints for shirts and skirts and sarongs. Dressing more festive than usual on the job is usually expected or accepted for the May Day festivals.
Colors: Red leis, flowers, armbands and red shirts are common, or red & white prints. Spontoonies consider red to be the "worker's solidarity" color when worn on May Day. After 1885, May Day became a holiday identified with low-income workers and union organization. Red is considered a symbol of working-class/ labor class. (The Spontoonies are aware of the association of red with the various Socialist Parties and the Communist Party [and the 1930s Russian Communist Party], but the Spontoonie tradition come from the late 1880s.)
Black color is an anarchist symbol. Democratic Anarchy has a positive context for Spontoonies. Unfortunately, there aren't many black flowers! You will, however, see May Day Spontoonies wearing black caps, black armbands, black cloth (or paper) leis, cockades, or corsages. Wearing all-black clothing would be considered extreme, although a dancer might get intense interest from the audience in how they made a black hula-skirt.
Black and red are the colors of the Rain Coast flags. As a sign of appreciation and solidarity with the sailors of the Rain Island Naval Syndicate (or just because it looks cool) you may see combinations of red and black decorations.
Black and red are not "official" Spontoon Island colors: you just may see them used more often for decoration on May Day. Many people will be joining the celebrations without using either color for their clothes, or with the usual red flower leis. The black and red are optional, and it is understood that individuals may have their own color schemes.
Booth villages: Meeting Island besides being the customary gathering place for citizen votes, and location of many Althing adminstration buildings, is considered a family park. There are several locations on Meeting Island where extended families or villages have "booths" (foundations for camping tents), or sometimes seasonal longhouses. The week of May Day is one of the traditional times for camping with your family at (or near) your family booth, and visiting other booths. These area become small festive villages for a week.
Flotilla: A parade of decorated boats. Casino Island has the most notable flotilla, one that does a loop on the North and West sides of the island, with afterwards, a floating picnic into the afternoon and evening. Some of the working boats will join this parade, as will some of the co-operative recreation boats, and private small craft. There is considerable participation from the Euro community's private and co-op boats and visiting yachts. During May Day many of these flotilla boats (especially the larger working boats) will give groups of people rides between the islands for the different scheduled events. The water taxis work during the flotilla and participate: The taxis are decorated (including extra lights at night) and also take people around to visit the boats. Some taxi trips are shared gifts, some trips are for pay.
Parades: the best-known parade is on Casino Island, the Saturday (or Sunday) morning after May Day, between the Ferry Square plaza and the Casino. A feature of this parade is a traditional spraying of marchers, floats, and viewers with (small) streams of water. Custom says that this was due to a remark made by a well-known Euro Casino Island politician back in 1919 about the territorial reasons behind "Anarchists flaunting their May Day parade around Casino Island from lamp-post to lamp-post!". In 1920, at the start of the parade, the squirt bottles appeared on both sides and (fortunately) after 10 seconds of shock everyone decided to have a good time. Displaying a squirt bottle or something similar is the sign that you are willing to give and take a stream of symbolic water, so only parts of the parade and spectators get soggy. As you might imagine, this parade is more likely to have silly sections.
There are other parades: One on Moon Island (a much more dignified military syndicate parade & review), and a parade along the western seashore road of Eastern Island (informal, but not usually silly). Aided by the influences of the street-performers union, there are often informal short parades. As an example, a group leaving a ferryboat might make their own music and march to the area of a scheduled event.
Performing artists do use May Day to show off material prepared for the tourist season. There are free music and dance performances-- May Day is usually the trial run for the tourist performance areas and theater stages.
Hangar dances: Eastern Island has dance events in some of the hangers near the main airstrip. Most are scheduled open dances with posted bands with specific styles of music. There are sometimes dance performances. "Europe folk dances" can be code for ballroom dancing and swing/jazz dance, as well as the folk dances that you might expect.
Impromptu dances: The street performers seem to have spread marching songs (with dances) and even some call-and-response group routines within parts of the Spontoonie community. These group performances show up at community events such as May Day. The Hula Dancer's Union has promoted several styles of holiday hula, and picnics will often have large groups doing hula dances.
Touring players: Wandering groups do street performances of Spontoonie custom skits and short musicals. Some of the material may be about the working-class theme where it touches on colonial geopolitics. Some of these performers will do tours of the more distant villages during the week following May Day. These tours are quietly subsidized by the Althing.
The anarchist influence does allow for events to be organized "from the bottom-up". There are more group events that have members cross-over the usual social or geographic boundaries, and meet new people. It is understood that events can be organized at short notice, with some flexibility needed for time and location.. The improvisational street-performance artists consider May Day one of their major performance times, and many classic street routines have had their start on May Days. Some anarchist-wing events show their sense of humor: The Official Anarchist Drum Jam (about 5 minutes long) and the Anarchist Association Choir Performance (about 6 minutes long) have been crowd favorites for participation since the late 1920s.
Visual Arts: Most visible are the leis worn by many May Day participants. There are displays by artists specializing in lei assembly. The parades show off sculptured masks and large character puppets, and the parades also include decorated floats constructed on trucks and wagons. Many of the building decorations (sculpture, painted patterns & murals) are finished for May Day. Some of this decorative work is "in process" through the first week in May.
Each of the Spontoon lagoon islands may have small co-op art shows for jewelry, painting and drawing, and often there will be street displays or shows in shops.
Tourists: May Day is just before the usual start of the tourist season and the arrival of the cruise ships. By the mid-1930s a small number of visitors have heard of the May Day celebrations, and come before the tourist season to watch. Most of these visitors are higher-income travellers who can afford to travel by air.
23 April 2007
27 April 2008
This text material is released to Public Domain.