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As an American, I’m accustomed to viewing Labor Day as the bitter sweet end to a not-nearly-long-enough summer; it’s the day we put away our white pants and shoes, put on our sweaters and plaid skirts and start thinking about returning to school, even if the temperature is still in the high 70’s.

Italy has a better idea. May 1st is Labor Day here, a red-letter day for celebrating workers, unions and, if you’re of such a mind, the good old Communist party.  How nice to have it at the beginning of summer rather than at the end.

According to Wikipedia: “The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane.”  More recently, especially in Europe, one tends to associate May 1 with the Communist party, Workers Unite!, Military might and so forth.  I’m thinking of pictures like these:

photo courtesy of libcom.org

and

photo courtesy of rferl.org

But while some in Italy may give a tip of the hat to labor, like almost every holiday in Italy (and this is a holiday, nation-wide, shops closed, the works) May Day is above all an excuse for a party.  This year it has fallen on a Saturday, which makes it double trouble.  Up the street from us there’s a party complete with amplified music (oh, thank you).  At Trattoria Rosa across the street there is a wedding reception, with a unique vehicle for the matrimonial couple:

And what did we do?  Probably what at least 50% of the Italian population did: we spent the whole afternoon eating with friends – a delightful cook-out which started with grilled vegetables (endive (!), eggplant, peppers and zucchini) and grilled cheese (little tomas), and moved on to grilled chops, veal and pork.  Then, in case we hadn’t had enough meat, there were sausages to accompany the Captain’s famous baked beans.  After a brief constitutional we returned for tiramisu.  Sadly we never did get around to the ice cream.

Grilled toma

May 1 – a great way to start the summer, no matter what your political affiliation.  Happy May Day, everyone!

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