Labor Day in Croatia – Međunarodni praznik rada

Park Maksimir, a favorite place to be on Labor day for many locals in Zagreb, Croatia
Park Maksimir, a favorite place to be on Labor day for many locals in Zagreb, Croatia

Labor Day in Croatia is a national holiday that is celebrated on May 1, along with 90 other countries. On this day, we celebrate solidarity among workers as well as workers’ rights.

Labor Day is called Međunarodni praznik rada in Croatian. It is also referred to as Praznik rada, Prvi svibanj, Prvi maj (from the Yugoslav period), and Blagdan rada (rarely used).

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

History of Labor Day worldwide

In the industrial period of the 19th century, employers exploited their workers, who were often children. People worked 18-hour days in dirty and unsafe factories. Accidents at work were frequent, and salaries were low. Workers began to organize strikes in the hopes of gaining better working conditions.

The biggest labor movement happened in Chicago, USA, on May 1, 1886, when approximately 40.000 workers took to the streets. It is estimated that between 300.000 and 500.000 people went on strike.

The strikers in Chicago formed the shape of the number 8 three times to symbolize their requirements:

  • 8 hours of work
  • 8 hours of rest
  • 8 hours of cultural education

During the strike, police killed 6 protestors and wounded 50. Five strike leaders were sentenced to death, and three others were sentenced to years in prison.

In 1889, it was decided that worker’s strikes would be held every year on May 1 in memory of the Chicago tragedy. Since 1890, May 1 has been known as International Workers’ Solidarity Day or Labor Day, as it is more commonly called.

During the mid-1900s, this day was celebrated with parades in capital cities all over the world. Through the years, crveni karanfil (red dianthus) became a symbol of the worker’s rebellion and the torture of those who were killed in Chicago.

[Read: Public national holidays in Croatia]

History of Labor Day in Croatia

Croatia experienced its own May 1st tragedy. In 1920, 7 workers were killed, and 126 were wounded during a worker’s rights protest in Pula when the army attempted to stop the protest. Several protestors threw roof tiles at the army. In response, the army received an order to start shooting at the protesters. Demonstrations then erupted all over Istria.

Croatia has celebrated Labor Day since 1890. During Yugoslavia, celebrations were large, and the whole country celebrated together. It was one of our favorite holidays. Instead of protests, the state would organize parades in larger cities where the army would have a ceremonial performance.

The night before, people would gather around a campfire. People would often celebrate by roasting a lamb or an ox. In addition, companies would pay their employees to go on holidays organized by their trade unions.

How is Croatian Labor Day celebrated today

Labor Day is a Croatian national holiday celebrating the right to work, rest, and have a decent private life. This day represents the fight for human rights that results from societal progress. The fight for better working conditions and human rights is still ongoing. It shouldn’t be stopped until the same rules and rights are available for every person in the world.

[Read: Your rights as a worker in Croatia]

Presently, the celebration of workers’ rights has been watered down. As this is a national holiday (meaning a free day from work), many Croats spend it with their families or friends. A common custom is to barbecue somewhere outside – in nature or a garden. Parades are no longer held, but some cities organize local gatherings.

Some combine this holiday with the weekend and go on a short trip to the sea. Residents of Zagreb enjoy a traditional celebration in Park Maksimir where they eat grah (beans).

[Read: 6 reasons to visit Park Maksimir]

This day holds a meaningful and impactful purpose that should be passed on to future generations.

And now a tiny Prvi maj treat from Bosnian band Dubioza Kolektiv…

View our other Croatian holiday posts

Krvavi 1. maj 1920. u Puli by AbrašMEDIA

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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