International Labor Day Vietnam: Rest and Remembrance

Gotta love when Labor Day falls on a Friday, right? Thanks to Reunification Day preceding it, everyone now gets a four-day weekend. So go enjoy the rest of it!

International Labor Day is an important public holiday in Vietnam. The day falls on May 1st, the day after Reunification Day.

People celebrate Labor Day around the world. Admittedly, on different days in some countries. America, for example, celebrates it on the first Monday in September. But what is the special significance of the holiday for Vietnam? What does this public holiday represent and how do the Vietnamese remember it?

Labor Day history

Labor Day
International Labor Day, as it’s known in Vietnam, is a day to celebrate workers and the labor movement. The occasion has a long history and various names: Labor Day, Worker’s Day and May Day.

Throughout this history, it’s often been linked to major historical events. Not to be confused with the pagan, May Day traditions of maypoles and spring rites, Labor Day was first associated with the 8-hour day movement. The movement advocated an 8-hour working day for laborers. 

The event that the day was originally chosen to commemorate is that of the Haymarket Affair. This took place all the way back in 1886 in Chicago. An initially peaceful protest turned ugly, what we now know as the Chicago Massacre. 

The protest began to support the 8-hour day movement. But someone threw a pipe bomb at the police. The ensuing fracas resulted in the deaths of seven police and at least four civilians.

In 1904, the Second International of socialists and communists chose May 1st as the day to remember the Haymarket Affair. The Second International promoted the interests of international socialism and labor movements around the world.

The intent was to create an international holiday to support this solidarity.

Many revolutionary leaders were in favor of May Day as a holiday. Lenin had long supported what the day represented. As such, Russia was one of the first countries to choose the day as an official public holiday for workers.

Vietnam and the globe

Labor Day
The Communist Party of Vietnam was founded in 1930. Since then, May 1st has been an important celebration. The victory of the French Popular Front in 1936 resulted in more political freedoms for Vietnam. As such, that year saw the first large parades and demonstrations in the country on Labor Day.

Following the August Revolution, and the Declaration of Independence, Ho Chi Minh signed a decree announcing May 1st as an official holiday for workers across the country.

As you’d expect, International Labor Day is an important holiday in those countries that are socialist. China, Cuba, Laos, and of course Vietnam, all celebrate the day as a national public holiday.

Indeed, most countries have some form of the holiday, whether it takes place on May 1st or not. Canada and the U.S. will recognize the holiday on Sept. 7 this year. Australia did so on March 9.

Festivities in Vietnam

Labor Day
As an official national holiday in Vietnam, most shops and offices are closed. As the holiday comes immediately after Reunification Day, depending on how the dates fall, this can turn into a four-day weekend, like this year.

There aren’t always that many specific celebrations that take place. This is because it falls so close to Reunification Day. Of course, that isn’t to say that it’s not an important holiday. Rather, Reunification Day slightly subsumes it. 

Nevertheless, most activities that take place for Reunification Day also last an extra day. Because, of course, people are on holiday! For example, last year’s cultural exhibitions in Hanoi and Hai Phong all continued through Labor Day.

On top of fireworks displays and cultural events, major cities enjoy general tranquility and calm. Most people take the opportunity to return to their hometowns over the long break.

More and more people also travel overseas over the national holiday, instead of just making domestic trips. Because of this, there’s a general hike in prices for flights and accommodation. As such, it’s probably advisable to stay in the big cities. This means that you can enjoy the (all too short) peace and quiet while it lasts.

Day of rest

International Labor Day has an important place in the list of Vietnamese public holidays. The original purpose of the day was to unite workers around the world. The holiday continues to be celebrated in numerous and diverse countries. Clearly, this purpose has been successful.

As a socialist country, the holiday has even more significance in Vietnam. The economy may have opened up in 1986. But there’s no arguing that socialism played a vital role in the nation’s past struggles.

The internationalism that Labor Day advocates is even more important today. This year’s festivities may be limited due to the ongoing coronavirus situation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still use the day to remember the past achievements of the international labor movement. Peace and international cooperation all remain as important as ever.