A Day of Labor has a Long History in the Great American Tradition
The first Monday in September is celebrated as Labor Day. It’s a bank and federal holiday meaning banks are closed and federal and state government offices are closed. Labor has more than a century of history and began as a movement to celebrate the American Laborer. There is some disagreement over who actually began the movement. Most agree that it was either Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and general secretary of a carpenter union, or Matthew McGuire, a machinist and later the secretary of the New Jersey machinist union.
The first Labor Day was celebrated on a Tuesday in 1882 in New York City. A year later the celebration took place on Monday in accordance with the original plans.
It wasn’t until 1892 that Oregon passed the first legislation and officially recognized Labor Day as a state holiday. New York’s bill was introduced earlier that year, but wasn’t enacted into law until after Oregon led the way. By 1894, thirty-two states had followed suit and officially recognized Labor Day. Congress passed a bill in June of that year and Labor became an official federal holiday.
Celebrating Labor Day
The original plans to celebrate labor included a parade to exhibit “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families.1
Today, speeches by civic leaders, government officials, union leaders, and by spiritual leaders recognize the efforts of labor in making America the place it is today. We still have the parades and there are many community events as well as picnics, fireworks, and other celebrations.
Memorial Day now marks the traditional beginning of the season of picnics, vacations, and other summer activities. Labor Day traditionally marks the end of the season and many families plan their two-week vacation to end on this Great American Holiday. It is during this period that children return to school and sports, especially football, return to the field at the high school, college, and professional levels.
The end of August and the first week of September are typically highlighted with clear weather and warm temperatures—perfect for picnics and outdoor family gatherings. Less rain means fewer mosquitoes which is always a plus.
Outdoor cooking on grills and open fires highlights these outings. It’s hard to beat steaks, sausages, hotdogs, chicken, and sweet corn grilled over hot coals in the local park or off the back of a tailgate in the stadium parking lot. Small gas grills make it even easier and more convenient. Cook up some hot wings or other finger food the day before and keep it hot in a slow cooker or crock pot.
Keep it simple because who wants to work in a kitchen on Labor Day? It should be day of fun and relaxation. Most of us enjoy firing up the grill and enjoying a cold beverage with friends and family while we cook something simple and delicious.
If you like camping, it’s hard to beat the weather for camping these last two weeks of summer. Warm, dry days and maybe the nights are cooling off a bit more because the sun rises later and sets earlier. Even if the weather isn’t always perfect, a week or weekend camping is certainly better than a week at work whether it’s the office, working a trade, or offering a service.
Celebrate Labor Day. It was Labor that built America’s infrastructure and everything else. Today that definition has changed to include many types of work. Whatever your labor, take a day off and celebrate your accomplishments along with the rest of America.
1Source: United States Department of Labor – A History of Labor Day