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Labor Day

Labor Day 2017 and 2018

Labor Day is observed in the U.S. on every first Monday in September as a day to recognize the contributions of American workers of all industries to the U.S. economy. It is also meant to give workers a well-earned day off to relax at home or to get out for recreation.

YearDateDayHolidayStates
20174 SepMonLabor Day National
20183 SepMonLabor Day National

To many, Labor Day marks the end of the summer season, even as Memorial Day marks its beginning. Many see Labor Day as their last chance to get out and take a vacation before summer is gone, and many workers get a two-week annual vacation period with Labor Day Weekend right in the middle of the two weeks off.

Most U.S. schools restart classes, after the long summer break, about a week before Labor Day. Others schools, however, resume classes on the day after Labor Day, thus allowing families to get in their last taste of summer before the school year gets underway.

While Canada also celebrates Labour Day at the same time as in the U.S., though spelling it differently to keep faith with the UK, many other countries have their own equivalent of Labor Day. May Day (on May 1st), for example, is observed by over 80 nations to give workers a much-needed day off, and there are also other countries with yet other dates for their version of Labor Day.

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

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

Besides recognition of labor and general entertainment, 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 Labor Day a much-appreciated break for many U.S. workers.

Although there are still a few parades and some fireworks displays on Labor Day Weekend, it is not a big time for “official events.” 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.

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 Labor 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, Labor Day 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.
  • In a more relaxed moment, you may wish to hunt up the many Labor Day speeches given by politicians, big businessmen, educationalists, religious leaders, and others. They are to be found on TV and radio, in newspapers, and of course, on the Internet. This will give you a good sense of what Labor Day means to many Americans today.

If traveling on Labor Day Weekend, you should plan well in advance. Both airports and roadways will be busy as many make their way to and from their annual vacations, and public transportation often operates on a reduced schedule.