Federal holidays are celebrated for a number of reasons. Labor Day is a federal holiday in the United States celebrated on the first Monday in September. PJ McGuire, Vice President of the American Federation of Labor, is frequently credited as the father of Labor Day in the United States. The day was designed to honor and recognize the American labor movement, as well as the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States. Of course, many people simply look at these “three-day weekend” holidays as a great day to go out of town, sleep in on a normal workday, barbecue, or play golf or some other sport. That wasn’t exactly the plan with these, but many of them do have special events attached to them, such as parades or other celebrations.
Labor Day began in the late 19th century, with the first Labor Day being Tuesday, September 5, 1887. As the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City. Still, it was not celebrated everywhere at that time. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. Labor Day didn’t become an official federal holiday, until 1894, when thirty states in the US officially celebrated Labor Day. Of course, these holidays didn’t get changed to “Monday Holidays” until the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act on enacted June 28, 1968. At that time, that made Washington’s Birthday and Memorial Day, as well as Columbus Day permanently on a Monday.
Of all the holidays that are celebrated on Mondays, Labor Day is probably the one that really is somewhat designed for a “three-day weekend” kind of celebration. We were, after all celebrating workers and all they had accomplished. When Labor Day was proposed, there was disagreement among labor unions about when a holiday celebrating workers should be. Some people advocated for continued emphasis of the September march-and-picnic date, while others wanted the designation of the more politically charged date of May 1. If you ask me, a May 1st picnic day has a much greater chance of getting rained out, than a September date, but that’s just my opinion. In the end, the September date won out, and now Labor Day is often viewed the “unofficial end of summer” because it marks the end of the cultural summer season. Many take their two-week vacations during the two weeks ending Labor Day weekend. Many fall activities, such as school and sports (particularly football), begin about this time. I’m not sure how many people really think about the labor side of the holiday at all. Nevertheless, they all enjoy the three-day weekend, and all the fun it includes.