So You Think You Know: Labor Day Edition


This weekend is Labor Day. In today’s age, Labor Day serves as the official end to summer — kids go back to school, amusement parks and pools begin closing down, and everything pumpkin flavored hits the stores. But Labor Day wasn’t always a final summer holiday. Read on to learn about the history of Labor Day:

Labor Day celebrates workers.
Many people enjoy the long weekend without wondering what they are really celebrating. Labor Day is held in honor of the U.S. labor movement of the mid- to late-1800s. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, following the deaths of dozens of workers during the Pullman Strike, a nationwide railroad strike in response to wage cuts.

Why have a holiday that celebrates workers?
Workers of the late 1800s greatly deserved the honor and respect that Labor bestowed — to eke out a basic living, the average American worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. Children as young as five worked in factories and mines, often under the same conditions as adults. Though today’s workers are undeniably better off than those of the 1800s, working men and women keep the nation’s economic engine running.

Labor Day was imported from Canada.
Canada first celebrated Labor Day in 1872 in Toronto, but the holiday quickly made its way south to the U.S.

Parades were actually part of the original proposal for the holiday.
When Labor Day was first proposed, the organizers insisted that a parade ought to be part of the annual festivities, which is why Labor Day parades are still common today.

Most of the world celebrates in May.
In most of the world, workers are honored on May Day or International Workers’ Day on May 1. The U.S. just loves to be different. (Actually, though the U.S. considered celebrating on International Workers’ Day, the holiday was so closely affiliated with Communists and anarchists that President Cleveland didn’t want to use the same date for fear of signalling support for those movements.)