Useful Notes: Labor Day in the United States
Labor Day! Labor Day!
Schools are closed and pools are open!
— "The Most Unwanted Song" by Komar, Melamid & David Soldier
First of May, right? Not if you're American or Canadian.
The modern Labor Day tradition developed in Canada in 1872, when parades were held in support of a nine-hour workday/forty-five hour work week and a strike by the printers' union. Originally, Labour Day (the Canadian spelling) did not have a set date — the 1872 parades were held in April, for example. In 1882, the Canadian tradition was imported to America by labor leader Peter J. McGuire, who started the tradition of holding it at the start of September. In 1894, both the US and Canada passed legislation making Labor Day a national holiday, held on the first Monday of September. In the US, the day was chosen at least in part due to fear that honoring the labor movement on May 1 (as Europe does) would embolden radical communist and anarchist groups
, especially after the 1886 Haymarket riot.
Today, Labor Day is considered the symbolic end of summer. It used to be the last day before the kids have to go back to school, but most districts nowadays have long since moved the first day of school to a week or more before Labor Day. In much of the country, this is when outdoor municipal pools close for the season and certain businesses end extended "summer hours". It is also, for whatever reason, culturally considered by some to be the end of when it is acceptable to wear white shoes (or white things in general). Almost everybody gets off from work on this day. The National Football League
plays its first game of the season on the Thursday following Labor Day, and the first college football games are played the week before. In Canada, the Canadian Football League
has a special weekend of traditional rivalry gamesóWinnipeg at Saskatchewannote
, Hamilton at Torontonote
, Edmonton at Calgarynote
, and Ottawa at Montrealnote
Labor Day is less of a political holiday than International Workers' Day (May 1) is in the rest of the world, with politicians only making speeches during election years; due to the US's rigidly-set election dates, though, it is
when campaigns traditionally shift into high gear.
Labor Day celebrations usually include barbecues, picnics, watching the game, and taking family trips.