Jessica Jefferson here with a brief history lesson about the recent holiday.
Labor Day marks the end of the recreational summer in the United States. Now we all know summer doesn’t officially end until much later in the month and really one could argue that it’s not over until the weather turns too cool to swim. But in the United States, many of us regard Labor Day as the last hurrah. For some states, it’s the last day before school starts and for others, school has already been in session for a couple weeks and it’s a bleak reminder that we just need to stop mourning the loss of our vacation and get on with our non-summer lives.
What is Labor Day and why do we celebrate by hanging at the beach, watching football, and shopping sidewalk sales at outlet malls?
Labor Day has been a federal holiday since 1894, though its first celebrations were in the early 1880’s by union laborers and various states. It was developed to celebrate the American worker and recognize the work of labor organizations to improve work conditions. To refresh your memory, working used to really suck in the 19th century. It was not unusual to work 12 hour days in horrid work conditions with pitiful pay. Children were subjected to the same long hours and were especially vulnerable to work place accidents that more often than not resulted in serious injury.
The first Labor Day celebration was recorded in 1892 in New York City. There was a parade, though it almost didn’t happen due to lack of attendance and no musical accompaniment. Later that morning, reinforcements did show up with numbers of participants and musicians with instruments and the parade finished with various groups celebrating in their own ways. By most accounts, beer was present.
These days, we celebrate in a similar fashion. Many employees, union or not, have the day off and get to spend the day as they wish – a luxury many workers in the 19th century did not have.
Image Credits –
First pic – By Author not known, but more than 100 years old, Image edited [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Second pic – By Contributor(s): Truth (Brisbane, Qld.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons