Filled with travel, spending, fireworks, food, and drinks, Labor Day is for the workers. One of the biggest party days of the year, it's a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your daily grind. But it's also important to understand the true meaning since its history is a far cry from today's festivities.
Across the globe, due to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, the workforce shifted. People left lives of agriculture and trade behind in favor of large-scale production. However, the working conditions in these factories continued to deteriorate.
By the mid-1800s, scores were working 18 hours per day or more. Wages were meager. Jobs proved deadly. Robber barons unethically ruled the day unscathed. To combat this, labor unions came about. Fighting for workers' rights, they held protests, strikes, and demonstrations, many resulting in tragedy.
In Chicago on the fourth of May, the Haymarket affair ensued in 1886. A peaceful protest turned deadly, setting the tone for similar future affairs.
Ultimately the labor unions won, setting the tone for modern working conditions, hours, wages, and benefits. But this came at a price. In the 1880s and 1890s, major events such as the Pullman and Homestead strikes also ended with deadly consequences.
Over 80 countries pay tribute to those who died for workers' rights. They hold true to the general timeframe of the Haymarket affair, memorializing it on the first of May.
In the United States and Canada (Labour Day), it's celebrated on the first Monday in September. By disassociating the date of bloodshed and death, the hope was it would tame the situation, damper emotions, and become a positive event.
Attributed to American Federation of Labor Vice President J. McGuire, parades, festivals, and other celebrations were hosted for the working class beginning in the 1880s. In Canada and the United States, Labor Day was first officially recognized as a holiday in 1894. Since then, a lot of these symbolic traditions have carried on.
Labor Day is perceived as the unofficial end of summer. It's the last hurrah before going back to school, the seasons changing, anticipating harvest, and life taking a turn in a new direction.
For travelers and history buffs, there's no better way to honor Labor Day than visiting the places where it all began. Take a vacation to a city rich in the holiday's past. If you want to dive into labor's history, Chicago, New York City, Pittsburgh, and Toronto are some go-to spots. Enjoy the sites and sounds of these areas, take part in local culture, and learn about the working class's struggle for fair employment. If you visit on Labor Day weekend, you're bound to run into parades, festivals, and other exciting events.
If the big city isn't your idea of a fun vacation, go the opposite route instead. A nice camping getaway is popular for those who want to escape their nine-to-five for a few days on an extended weekend. From primitive camping and teardrop trailers to luxury motor homes and log cabins, pick what suits your lifestyle and get back to nature. The slow pace, peace, and quiet will do wonders for you.
May retailers report that Labor Day is their second biggest sales date behind Black Friday. Consumerism is booming at this time of year. Holiday sales are everywhere you look, and some bargains can't be beaten. Back-to-school shopping, summer clearances, and autumn arrivals are a few of the reasons why Labor Day has taken on a life of its own in the retail industry.
Closely behind Independence and Memorial Days, Labor Day is the third most popular holiday for cookouts. Whether you're hosting or attending, it's great to get that final warm-weather party in before the temperatures start to dip. No matter if you're grilling in the backyard, on the beach, or at a campground, the food will taste delicious.
Labor Day is a hub of activity in the sporting world. Stay at home and watch match-ups all day. Visit a nearby stadium, or go on a getaway for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Baseball is winding down, so a day at the ballpark is always a fun time. In New York, the U.S. Open tennis tournament takes place.
The National Football League in the United States begins its season around Labor Day. Plus, the Canadian Football League hosts the Labour Day Classic. And if you're not into the NFL or CFL, numerous colleges and universities in both countries have games on this holiday.
Though the holiday is steeped in tradition, one concept that has been lost to modern-day trends is not wearing white after Labor Day. Originally, this was concocted due to class distinction. Unlike the wealthy, due to the nature of their jobs, workers were often dirty and seldom could afford year-round vacations. It became faux pas for them to wear white after the holiday. This signified who they were, as the upper class wore light colors year-round since they vacationed in warm and clean areas.
Today, this idea has essentially faded away. The fashion industry has almost wholeheartedly abandoned the notion of basing fabric colors on what some consider archaic concepts. The symbolism is obsolete, so wear whatever you want whenever you want.