On Monday, September 2nd the majority of Americans will take time off of work to rest. Businesses will close their doors and federal offices will be dark as a country that is constantly on the go has set aside a day of ceasing, stopping and catching their breath. Labor Day, an official holiday of the United States, will begin.
The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. By June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act to officially make Labor Day a national holiday. Although no one knows for sure who founded the holiday, Americans have been celebrating the day for over 100 years. Traditionally, many workers are paid to essentially not show up for work! In many industries, like healthcare, where it’s impossible to release its workers, employees are paid at a higher rate for working the holiday.
The main idea behind Labor Day is simple: take a break. Try not to work and instead focus on spending time with friends and family. It’s appropriately placed at the end of summer in recognition of the busyness that surrounds the summer holidays and the hectic holiday season that is coming. It’s neatly nestled right in the middle of it all as a calm before the storm, so to speak.
For many Americans, Labor Day is spent with family and friends. Many people will barbecue or visit their local park for a picnic. It’s a day of rest and relaxation, enjoying the simple things in life and visiting with people you love. Although some people travel for the holiday, most stay at home or visit close relatives.
The President of the United States typically releases a statement each year urging its citizens to embrace and celebrate the holiday. In 2012 President Barack Obama wrote:
The rights and benefits we enjoy today were not simply handed to working men and women; they had to be won. Brick by brick, America’s labor unions helped raise the landmarks of middle-class security: the 40-hour workweek and weekends, paid leave and pensions, the minimum wage and health insurance, Social Security and Medicare. These are the victories that make our Nation’s promise possible — the idea that if we work hard and play by the rules, we can make a better life for ourselves and our families.
It truly is a day to recognize the every man and woman that contributes towards the success of a country.
The United States is not alone in celebrating its workers. Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago also have a Labor Day of sorts. Canada has been celebrating the holiday since the late 1800’s with countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago embracing the holiday much later. In New Zealand the holiday was started when a carpenter named Samuel Parnell refused to work more than eight hours a day and started a movement within New Zealand to limit the workweek.
All can celebrate the spirit of Labor Day whether or not you have an official Labor Day in your country. Wherever you live be sure and make room in your schedule to catch your breath, relax and enjoy the fruit of all your hard work!