Here's why the first of May is a public holiday in many parts of the world. I translated this from an Esperanto translation by Jakvo Schram. Incidentally, surprisingly little of Boon's work is available in English.

The First of May

Louis Paul Boon

Now I must write with my best pen, my summer pen, my Sunday pen. Decorate it with a red ribbon, and dip it in an ink with which are written only words of joy, of sun and happiness, of freedom and gaiety;

Unfortunately, it is a pen I am not used to. I write with it the way I will later march in the procession: a little strangely, a little lost in the celebrations.

Pardon me.

Great joy and great happiness always make me a bit quiet. I pinch my arm to know that I am not dreaming. I see so many flags during the march and I know that I have a flag of my own: the flag that I always carry by myself in my heart, day after day.

I feel again then, the First of May, that I'm not alone, that I have not fought all alone for a little happiness in life, for some justice between us, for a better house, and a kind wife who is not exhausted by too much work.

This moves me. Not everything is in vain, I silently begin to think, deep in my heart. Hundreds, thousands, millions throughout the world think like me, carry the same flag in their hearts. And the First of May, the most beautiful day of the year, they come out with that flag, and march in processions, everywhere, in Paris and in Moscow and in London, and in my own little village Waaiendijk.

There are people everywhere who think like me, who, like me, enjoy the fruits of what our parents achieved: the 8-hour day, the 5-day week, the paid holidays. And those are only the visible things, a few concrete things.

Because the rest is much more. The freedom to write what I think, the right to be who I am, the ability to look at the king, emperor or pope with my hands in my pockets. Not having to take off my cap when I do not want to, not having to kneel and beg for bread crumbs, or a small place in heaven.

We no longer have to beg, we ourselves have got everything.

For that, thousands upon thousands march beside one another, under a red flag of the First of May. I should, in fact, celebrate, I know, but I am overwhelmed and fall silent: for respect towards myself.

Tomorrow, the day after, my little flag will again lie folded, deep in my heart's pocket, but today it is unfurled and flutters red, red, red, throughout the world.