Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May Day

Yesterday was May Day which is still an actual holiday in France. In terms of holidays, it’s a bigger deal than Christmas, if the importance of a holiday can be expressed as an inverse ratio of public tranport service (Christmas, the trams ran once every half hour. Yesterday, not at all).

The telephone poles of Strasbourg had been plastered with retro-revolutionary “Take to the streets” posters, so we were unsurprised when our morning was interrupted with loud chanting and music. Turns out the May Day parade was going right by our house.

As a history enthusiast, this was sort of like going to the zoo for a wildlife biologist: Hey look - actual Communists! I thought they were extinct! They followed the much larger union contigents, but they were honest-to-god Communists (not a bunch of teenagers with an ill-understood copy of the Manifesto. Reflecting the hard times they've fallen on in recent years, the Marxists were splintered into about a dozen factions, including the three dudes (one of whom was about 7 years old) representing the Union Senegalese Communists. The largest of the communist groups even had a banner with the faces of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. (Dear Comrades: If I may share just a thought for your consideration. Stalin - really? That’s the face you want on your banners to advertise your ideology? You don’t think he might be even a little off putting for anyone who isn’t a complete sociopath?)

Parade over, we hopped on our bikes to have a nice outdoor lunch with a Canadian family we know here. On the way, we passed about a dozen sellers of fleur de lys. It is a tradition, (strictly enforced” to sell little nosegays of these things on May first. This being France, which has no shortage of rules, you can actually be fined for selling them any earlier than May Day.

Despite my curiosity, we didn’t buy any. Instead, for your viewing pleasure, we did acquire some roses from our friends, whose front yard is overgrown with them. They are now sitting in our plastic water bottle cum flower vase and making the apartment smell nice.

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