With Labor Day Weekend now upon us, we take an in-depth look into this sometimes underrated Holiday. If there’s one reason why the meaning of Memorial Day (the honoring of those who have fallen in the military) can be sometimes overlooked, it’s because it is viewed by many Americans as being the kickoff to summer. Simultaneously, if there is one reason that the meaning of Labor Day is overlooked, it’s because that the first Monday of September is often viewed as being the closing to the summer season/vacation time and the beginning to fall.
The truth is that Labor Day is a holiday that really deserves to receive more attention than it does. The freedom to work is perhaps the most important thing to commemorate in America, second only of course to the lives that have been put down by our soldiers and of our soldiers who are currently putting their lives on the line. Labor Day annually celebrates the American labor movement and the achievements that workers have made socially and economically. Considering that there are today one hundred and fifty nine million people in the American labor force, there’s definitely good reason to commemorate what they do for our country’s economy.
Why Celebrate Labor?
Labor Day become a national holiday as voted upon by Congress during the Presidency of U.S Grover Cleveland, right after the Pullman Strike where a significant number of workers were tragically killed. The date of the holiday was pushed to September even though it was initially expected to land simultaneously with International Workers’ Day to merge the two days. President Cleveland opposed this measure, feeling that doing so would fuel either the pro-anarchist and socialist movements alike that were building themselves at the time. Today, Labor Day is an official holiday in all fifty states and Washington D.C.
Celebrating Labor Day
In contrast to other holidays such as Christmas where we open wrapped gifts under the tree, Thanksgiving where we gather around the table with family to eat turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy, or the Fourth of July where Americans typically hold large barbecues and watch impressive fireworks displays, there’s admittedly not as many practices that we use for celebrating the achievements of those in the labor force.
- Today, most cities host parades and festivals celebrating the holiday, most of which are sponsored by labor and trade organizations. Many prominent people in these organizations will often speak and draw large crowds.
- Back to School. Because Labor Day is commonly used as the end point for the summer season, the week following the holiday is commonly the week that students return to school, so it can’t exactly be said that Labor Day is a holiday that students look forward to. Ironically enough, summer isn’t officially over until the twenty first of September each year either, so technically, summer is still in full swing when students return to school despite the common use of the term ‘summer’s over’ when students return to class. Labor Day weekend is also often the first three-day weekend of the school calendar.
- It’s unfortunate, but Labor Day is probably the most well known to people for the retail sale weekends that retailers take advantage of to draw in more customers. In fact, the labor day weekend is always the second largest sales date for each year, falling only narrowly behind Black Friday during Christmas. What’s ironic, but also sad, about this whole situation is how Labor Day is supposed to be commemorating the American worker’s spirit, but yet not only do many employees of retail stores have to work on Labor Day, they have to work longer hours too. Considering that nearly a quarter of all jobs in the U.S are in retail, just like the students Labor Day isn’t exactly a holiday that many workers look forward to either.
We Love Our Sports
Labor Day serves as a major checkpoint in many sports. In football, for both college and the NFL, the next season will begin on or following Labor Day. The first game for the NFL is specifically played on the first Thursday following Labor Day weekend, while the NCAA will hold their first game on Labor Day weekend itself. Beyond football, the car racing sports also have a history with the holiday as well. NASCAR held auto races on Labor Day from the 1950s through the 1980s and then on the Sunday preceding the holiday from the 1980s through the early 2000s. The latter tradition briefly halted, but is expected to continue this year in 2015. Finally, Labor Day serves as the midway point for the opening weeks of the Open Tennis Championships of the U.S, which are held in New York.