The Origins of Labor Day and why we celebrate It


After the sunny, relaxing days of summer, when most kids are back in school, the first Monday in September is observed as Labor Day. We all look forward to this long weekend and to the approaching fall. On this national holiday people enjoy their day off with friends and family, and events such as picnics, family reunions or other parties or parades are common. But have you ever wondered about how Labor Day originated, and why we celebrate it? Let’s find out.

A little bit of history….

In the late 1800s, when the Industrial Revolution was at its peak in the United States, an average American worker worked 12-hour days all seven days a week just to make a basic living. You could even see kids as young as 5 or 6 years old toiling in the mills and earning just a fraction of what the adults earned. People were quite poor and faced unsafe working conditions. In the late 18th century, labor unions began to form, and with time, grew more vocal and prominent. They soon organized strikes and rallies to renegotiate pay and working hours from employers.

On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers in New York took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. This idea of a holiday honoring the working men and women caught on and many states passed legislation recognizing the day. Congress, however, legalized the holiday only 12 years later. To this day there is doubt as to who proposed this holiday for workers. The two names that are brought up in this regard are those of Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, and Matthew Maguire, a machinist.

Celebrating and honoring the workers

For over a 100 years, this holiday has been observed to show gratitude for workers and their families. In keeping with the significance of this day, street parades are held, and speeches are made by prominent men and women. Over the years, there are other events that have become a part of Labor Day. The day is the “unofficial end of summer” and also marks the start of many fall sports.

Fashionistas consider this the last day when it is appropriate to wear white! With everyone having the day off, retailers wanted to take advantage of the large number of potential customers, and so Labor Day weekend sales have become one of the most important sales of the year, second only to Christmas and Black Friday.

Parties, barbeques, athletic activities, mini vacations, picnics, company events, and more have all become a part of this important day. Not only is it a day of fun and relaxation, more importantly, it is a yearly national tribute to all the hardworking people in America, whose dedication and sacrifice has made our nation strong and prosperous.

So as you celebrate Labor Day this year, do not forget the true significance of this day and thank the hardworking people who have made this nation great.

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