Happy Labor Day to you and all your hard work, you spectacular workhorse, you! Most of us are just stoked to have an extra long weekend we can count on every year, but the history of Labor Day is far more celebratory than we give it credit for. We want to take a moment to salute you and give credit where it’s due with a lightning-fast history lesson on this holiday that gives us a break from the heavy lifting as summer comes to a close.
WHAT IT IS
Labor Day is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.” Thanks Department of Labor!
Basically it’s a public holiday for working people that’s celebrated on the first Monday in September in both the U.S. and Canada and on May 1 in many other countries. Festivities and parades honor and give recognition to workers for busting ass the rest of the year and, though it’s a holiday that’s recognized around the world, it’s got distinctly American roots.
WHERE & WHEN IT STARTED
The very first Labor Day began as an organized parade in New York City back in 1882. The fact that a holiday for the people got its start with New Yorkers who take no crap and then fuhgettaboutit should come as a surprise to no one.
Union leaders wanted a gigantic labor festival, but when next to no one showed up the morning of, organizers worried no one wanted to give up a day’s pay to party down at the rally. Their fears were soon alleviated when crowds started pouring in from all around the city. The press called the parade “a day of the people” and when it was all said and done, 10,000 people made the day and parade a success.
The government caught on a couple years later and the first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances in 1885 and 1886 with a movement for state legislation hot on its heels. New York had the first bill introduced, but good ol’ progressive Oregon was the first to pass the bill into law on February 21, 1887. Colorado, Massachusetts, Jersey and New York followed suit the same year, and a decade later, 23 other states picked up the holiday. On June 28, 1894, Congress joined the party and passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday.
HOW TO CELEBRATE
It’s over 100 years later and there’s still a major parade in New York City, the birthplace of the movement, and many other cities and towns around the country. The first proposal of the holiday outlines the desire to have a street parade to bring the people together and show the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.” After that, they wanted us all to have recreational festivals for ourselves and our families.
So if you’re looking for a way to let loose on this day that was specifically designed for you, hit up a local parade and then throw a barbecue. Labor Day backyard barbecues have become synonymous with relaxing, coming together with family and friends and taking a breather from the grind.
Whatever you do, remember that this is your day to relax, party down, or do both—it’s FEDERALLY DESIGNATED. Crack a beer, share a laugh and carpe labor diem, friends.