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Labor Day

Labor Day 2017 and 2018

Labor Day is a federal holiday to recognize the contributions of American workers of all industries to the U.S. economy. It is celebrated every first Monday in September, and in 2017 this will be Monday 4 September.

YearDateDayHolidayStates
20174 SepMonLabor DayNational
20183 SepMonLabor DayNational

The first U.S. Labor Day celebrations took place in New York City in 1882 at the behest of local labor unions. The unions wanted to put the fruits of their industries on public display. In 1887, Oregon instituted a state-level Labor Day holiday. 29 other states followed suit before it finally became a federal holiday in 1894.

The original Labor Day celebrations consisted of street parades displaying the contributions of laborers in various industries. These parades were followed by local festivals and other amusements. The holiday was also a time for giving speeches on labor-related topics, which is still occasionally done today.

Another reason Labor Day was instituted was to provide a public holiday in the long, “holiday-free” span between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. This gap-filler strategy, combined with its “strategic position” at the end of the summer season, has made it a much-appreciated break for many U.S. workers.

Today, the Labor Day weekend is not a big time for “official events,” although there are still a few parades and some fireworks displays on Labor Day Weekend. Mostly, it is the beginning of the football season, a time for picnics and barbecues, and a time to go on vacation to the beach, national parks, or elsewhere.

Labor Day activities and events

Some activities that many enjoy taking part in on Labor Day and Labor Day Weekend in the U.S. include:

  • Watch on TV or attend in person various sporting events. The NCAA plays its first college football games on Labor Day Weekend, and the NFL usually has a kick-off game on the following Thursday. Racing is also big on this day, as both NASCAR and NHRA drag race events take place.
  • Go shopping while Labor Day sales and discounts are up and running at numerous malls and retail outlets all across the nation. For some businesses, this holiday is their biggest sales event next to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. There is a focus on back to school sales, but sale items are not at all limited strictly to pencils, backpacks, and calculators.
  • Go on vacation, like so many Americans do during Labor Day Weekend every single year. Some of the most popular destinations include: Las Vegas, the “party city” of the Nevadan desert that is within easy striking distance of Grand Canyon; Chicago, for its famous fireworks event off of Navy Pier; and Miami, for its unbeatable beach and the nearby Bill Baggs Cape state park.
  • Go to New York City for the biggest Labor Day party in the country, the West Indian American Day Carnival. The carnival brings two million visitors to Brooklyn each year. It lasts for seven hours straight and includes a costumed parade down Eastern Parkway and numerous street vendors selling authentic West Indian (and New York City) cuisine. You will also notice some dressed up as familiar political figures or movie stars who go about throwing paint powder at each other just for fun. You may not want to don an outfit and join in the paint-slinging, but it is still fun to watch.