Celebrating May Day in Karachi

May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night and falls exactly half a year from November 1, another cross-quarter day also associated with various Northern European pagan festivals, and has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations by innkeepers and their customers.

As Europe became Christianized, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and All Saints’ Day, all of which were once again celebrated by the very early hospitality industry.

In the 20th and continuing into the 21st century, many neo-pagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again, with several countries also using the occasion to celebrate their workers’ contributions and achievements.

A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning the Queen of the May. Various neo-pagan groups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on May 1st.

The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures, and still is, while also being celebrated in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, where this year I decided to give my own hospitality heroes some special treats in recognition of my admiration for their bravery and their remarkable dedication and commitment to providing our guests with round-the-clock service, even while our hotel is being shaken by bomb blasts.

So the day before the holiday we arranged for a bumper payout of tips from our Tips For Life fund, which ensured that every member of staff received a cash amount equivalent to the weekly wage here.

We also arranged four lucky draws, which gave four lucky workers the average of a full week’s wages in cash, and then arranged for all four to be driven home to their loved ones in the hotels swanky limousines, with the cash in their back pockets.

Then on the morning of May 1st, I waited at the staff entrance to personally welcome all arriving staff members, and to say thank you for coming to work on the holiday instead of spending it at home with their families and friends.  

I then arranged and helped to serve special tea breaks in the cafeteria for the morning and afternoon shifts, which included a fresh fruit buffet (something many of them never see, let alone taste due to the high local costs) and sweet delicious lassi, homemade samosas and Pakistani sweets, which they all enjoyed along with some extra break time.

I then invited all staff members on duty (around 100) to join me for lunch and dinner at our all-day dining buffet restaurant, where we all enjoyed, together with our guests, a fantastic spread of local delicacies, including mutton biriyani, chicken Qorma, prawns, and fresh local fish cooked Lahore-style.

After lunch I toured the property from the top floor all the way to the basement and to the car parks and perimeters with my house photographer, and took photographs with every member of the team on duty, all of which will later be presented to them with a personal message of thanks from me, and finally handed over small boxes of homemade sweets for everyone to take home to their families. 

Which part of the May Day did I enjoy most? Well, I have to say that I enjoyed all of it, as it provided me with a stark reminder that it is very often the front line — meaning the workers — that are responsible for producing the bottom-line profits, and that we should never forget to let them know as often as we can how grateful we are for their personal contributions to our success, no matter how big or small.

How did you celebrate May Day with your workers? Please share your ideas with your fellow HOTELS bloggers and readers so that we can all make next year’s May Day an even greater success for all our hospitality workers around the world, and for us.