MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5: Enjoy an outdoor picnic, watch a parade and just relax today—you’ve earned it! Today is Labor Day in the United States. Since 1882, Americans have set aside a day to hail the contributions of U.S. workers. (Read more from the U.S. Department of Labor.)
The first proposal for this holiday called communities to create a street parade that exhibited “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for workers and their families. Traditions haven’t changed in more than 100 years. (Kids—looking for Labor Day coloring pages, word searches and short stories? Check out Apples4TheTeacher.)
Labor Day is also unofficially regarded as the last day of summer. Along with a dedication to workers, Labor Day has evolved into a cultural “change of seasons” for Americans: Many families take one last vacation before the new schoolyear begins, and the NFL and college football seasons begin on Labor Day. The first Sunday in September is traditionally the last acceptable day for women to wear white, although that rule has relaxed. (History.com has more on the impact of Labor Day on American history.)
It’s debated who first proposed Labor Day, but the first observance was by the Central Labor Union—the first integrated major trade union in the country. Labor Day grew into a federal holiday just two years after its first observance, mainly in the wake of worker deaths in the Pullman Strike of 1894. (Wikipedia has details.) Since some workers had been killed by government officers, President Grover Cleveland made amends by pushing Labor Day through Congress and into law six days after the end of the strike. A spiritual aspect of Labor Day was highlighted in 1909, when the American Federation of Labor declared the Sunday preceding Labor Day as Labor Sunday, a time when the spiritual and education characteristics of the labor movement were examined.
Labor Sunday is now included in the vacation travel plans of many Americans, and CNN Money predicts that holiday travel will be down a mere 2.4 percent from last year, despite an average $.85 rise in gas prices (per gallon). (Read more here.) AAA expects that 31.5 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over the weekend.