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What is Labor Day all about, anyway?

By Summer Lane

Photo: Deposit

When I was growing up, the only thing I really knew about Labor Day was that I was literally born on the holiday. No joke! I was born on the aptly-named day for childbirth (cue the obligatory laughter), which also happened to be my grandmother’s birthday. To this day, my grandmother and I have celebrated our birthdays together every year, which has been a rare and unique experience that I’m glad I’ve had the chance to enjoy.

As I got older, I began to wonder what Labor Day really represented as a holiday. I was crystal clear on the meanings behind Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day. Christmas was obvious, and so was Thanksgiving. But Labor Day? It’s a weird one, that’s for sure!

This year, I was determined to dig deeper into the history of the holiday – and I wanted to know why people always say, “Don’t wear WHITE after Labor Day!”

While all my questions weren’t answered (I’m still confused about the fashion advice on wearing white, because I’ll be wearing a pair of white capris all weekend and long after – sorry not sorry!), I did learn a few interesting facts.

First, Labor Day was originally celebrated in the 1880s. The celebrations were organized by workers and unions, in the wake of the “labor movement” that spurred sometimes violent showdowns between authorities and workers who were on strike. The 1894 Pullman Strike preceded the establishment of Labor Day as a holiday, which was a widespread and extremely violent railroad strike.

Recall also that while labor unions of today have a bad reputation, American workers during the Industrial Revolution were often used and abused – can ya say child labor?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the labor celebrations of American workers were not officially recognized legislatively until 1894, when Congress passed an act that made the first Monday of September an official holiday to commemorate the event.

There is also, apparently, some debate as to who actually came up with the Labor Day name (Peter J. McGuire vs Matthew Maguire – nobody knows!), but the first official big Labor Day celebration happened before Congress established the holiday long-term. The big event happened in 1882 in New York City.

Here’s what the U.S. Department of Labor also added:

Many Americans celebrate Labor Day with parades and parties – festivities very similar to those outlined by the first proposal for a holiday, which suggested that the day should be observed with – a street parade to exhibit “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day.

Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

American labor has raised the nation’s standard of living and contributed to the greatest production the world has ever known and the labor movement has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.

Here in America, it’s integral to remember that we have more equal opportunities here to work than anywhere else in the world. While the country is far from perfect – and seems to be headed downhill fast in many areas – we still have more freedom here than most people could ever hope to have.

So, with that, I hope you learned something new about Labor Day and that you and your family enjoy a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day weekend – I’m off to the beach!


Check out this quick but informative video about the first Labor Day celebrations!





The opinions in this article are specific to its author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Counter Culture Mom team. This specific article was written by Summer Lane, and may not be reproduced, except to quote for reviews or interviews, without the express permission of the author. 




Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 30 books, including the hit Collapse Series and Resurrection Series. She is an experienced journalist and columnist who reports on news within the U.S. and abroad. She is the Associate Editor for Right Side Broadcasting Network. Additionally, she analyzes politics and policies on The Write Revolution.

Summer is also a mom and wife who enjoys rural country living, herding cats, and gardening. She is passionate about writing about women’s issues, parenting, and politics from a theologically-grounded perspective that points readers to the good news of the gospel.

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