Labor Day – History and Tradition

Labor Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September. The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City, it became a federal holiday in 1894, and all 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday in the years following.

Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parties. In U.S. sports, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons. NCAA teams usually play their first games the week before Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day.

The enactment of the federal holiday in 1894, followed the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date was chosen as Cleveland was concerned that aligning an American labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair.

The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil 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.

adapted via Wikipedia