The Story of Labor Day

Phyllis Inspiration 10 Comments

I have such fond memories of Labor Day weekends. It means a day off from work and school, and a Monday, no less. What’s not to love? I enjoy spending time with my family on Labor Day, taking advantage of the extra day of rest that this holiday provides. Recently I’ve been wondering exactly how this day came to be. After some research, I have found out a little bit about the story of Labor Day.

Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and began as a tribute to the workers who have allowed the United States to prosper. At first, it was a holiday that was adopted state by state. Over time the celebrations began to catch on nationwide and, in 1894, Labor Day was approved as a national holiday to be observed on the first Monday of every September.

There has been some dispute as to who is truly the father of Labor Day. Traditionally it was attributed to Peter J. McGuire, a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor. However, historians in recent years believe a New York Central Labor Union secretary named Matthew Maguire could have come up with Labor Day first. Whether it was McGuire or Maguire, it is still a marvelous idea to have a holiday celebrating the workers of the United States.

Labor Day was originally celebrated with a parade in the streets, followed by a festival for workers and their families. Today, the holiday is celebrated in many different ways. From cookouts to days at the lake to simple time with family, I hope that your Labor Day is restful and spent with those that you hold dear.

What are your Labor Day traditions?

Comments 10

  1. Spending the Labor Day holiday at the lake with our grandparents was our family tradition. Grandpa always put up the Stars and Stripes and Grandma made the best potato salad. The weekend signified the end of summer for us kids and school always started the next week.

    As an adult, we learned from our 2nd cousin that her mother worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory but was at home with the flu when the fire broke out.

    The tragic incident led to the transformation of the New York State labor code and prompted the creation of new building, fire, and safety codes for the entire United States – that remain in effect today.

    I typically carve out some time during Labor Day to sew.

  2. My grandson, Sandor, and I share a September 2nd birthday and my oldest daughter’s birthday is August 30. Our whole family celebrate Labor Day and the birthdays at Fripp Island every year.

    1. May 1 as the holiday for workers comes from May Day, which goind back to pagan times was celebrated for many centuries as a special day in Europe, heralding the warm days of summer to come. Everyone was glad to be able to get outside after the dreary winter and the rains of spring! By the turn of the last century May 1 was formally observed as a holiday for industrial workers as well as for peasants and farm laborers.

      Regardless of whether you are having a holiday today, I hope everyone has a great day!

  3. Do you know why everybody else but the U.K. celebrates Labor Day on May 1? It is a mystery to me.
    Labor Day always meant a picnic with cousins and grandma at the cabin on the river. Very ’50s (my guess based on photos, it’s before my time), even into the ’80s.

  4. It was always bittersweet…we would be coming home after a vacation at the Jersey shore and spending the labour day weekend in the Catskills. The long drive home on the Monday always felt gloomy…there was no lively chatter, making of plans etc. However, the next day was full of excitement as we started a new school year. I still have that same funny feeling in my stomach every Labour day weekend even so many years later.

  5. Growing up we lived in the country in North Carolina. Summers were hot and there was no air conditioning. I remember when we got a window fan and I thought we were in high cotton. On occasion we would get to go to a creek to cool off. It was named Sandy Creek and was the perfect spot to sit in the shade or slide off the rocks into the water. Summer was barefoot heaven and mama sewed our summer outfits out of chicken feed bags. We had no idea we were poor as we had gardens and a pig that kept our bellies full. There were no picnics or holidays in our lives but mama could cook up a storm and on Sunday there was fried chicken, butter beans, sliced tomatoes, biscuits, and a huge chocolate cake. Memories!!!!

  6. Labor Day was bittersweet for me because school always started the next day! Altho’ I loved school, the end to a summer of playing with friends all day was hard to leave behind!
    Fried chicken, potato salad, English pea salad, deviled eggs and assorted desserts shared with friends and family! Wonderful times!!

  7. Labor Days during my childhood in the 1940s were days off for Daddy, an attorney who usually worked six days a week in his law office with his brother. We picnicked at any of several area picnic spots. Sometimes it was at Indian Suicide Rock off Shades Crest Road; near Five Mile Creek where we could wade; Avondale Park where we looked into the spring house at the fish and fed the ducks, or beautiful Green Springs Park which had a good creek running through it.
    Our picnic meal was always fried chicken, pimento cheese sandwiches, roasted sliced ham sandwiches with lettuce, dill pickles and tomatoes (wrapped separately in wax paper or in a glass jar like the mayonnaise), deviled eggs and a three layer chocolate cake.
    Mama brought glass plates for food and Dixie cups for our milk, cold drinks or iced tea. We had checkered green and white picnic cloths for the food and heavy cotton blankets to sit on.
    Daddy drove Pa’s new automatic- shifting gears – car, borrowed for the occasion, and kept order. If we three children quarreled during the ride Daddy would pull the car over, stop and reach an arm over the back of his seat, declaring “This is a picnic! Behave yourselves! We’re going to have a good time if it kills us.”
    Once, when we brought a four year old cousin along, our picnic became very messy. Cousin D. stepped on the deviled egg plate and sat down on the chocolate cake. We all had to laugh at her teary, surprised reaction. Mama cleaned things up, comforted the cousin and we enjoyed the rest of the day.
    We went home tired but with a story to tell about the mishap along with remembering wading, feeding ducks, catching crawdads or otherwise having the good time Daddy provided with much laughter,while helping us find tadpoles or feed the ducks.

  8. Holidays used to very predicable and shared, we have diversified and celebrate much differently! Store hours, neighborhoods not quite as close and sometimes less knowledge about the holiday we are honoring!oh well , these will be the memories our children have of holidays!! Enjoy family and friends and continue to create some memories

  9. I too like Labor Day because it comes right after my birthday, which is today. I often teased my Mom that I was almost an official Labor Day baby. It has always been fun to celebrate throughout the years!
    Happy Labor Day, Phyllis!

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