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The History of Labor Day… The Holiday, End of Summer & Sales!

history of labor dayTHE HISTORY OF LABOR DAY
Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September that honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend and is widely considered the unofficial end of summer (wah-wah!) in the United States. Labor Day is also a federal holiday, meaning banks, post offices and other federal institutions are closed in observance.

Beginning in the late 1800s, as the trade union and labor movements grew across the world, different groups of trade unionists chose a variety of days on which to celebrate labor. In the United States, the September holiday was first proposed in 1882 to a General Assembly of the Knights of Labor convened in New York City. In conjunction with this assembly a public parade of various labor organizations was held and the holiday was born.

In 1887 Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day. Following the deaths of union workers at the hands of United States Army and United States Marshals Service during the Pullman Strike of 1894 in Chicago, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law six days after the end of the strike. Cleveland supported the creation of the national holiday in an attempt to shore up support among trade unions and improve worker relationships with the federal government.

Labor Day is often known as the unofficial end of summer because it marks the end of the cultural summer season. Many people take their final vacations during the weeks preceding Labor Day weekend. And across the country, many fall activities, such as school and sports begin about this time. With regard to outdated fashion trends, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day when it is acceptable to wear white or seersucker. (If it’s ever acceptable to wear seersucker!)

In the United States, many school districts resume classes around the Labor Day holiday weekend. Most begin the week before, making Labor Day weekend the first three-day weekend of the school calendar, while others return the Tuesday following Labor Day, allowing families one final getaway before the school year begins. Many districts across the Midwest are opting to begin school after Labor Day. And as you know, in Tennessee and across the Southeast, schools often start the new school year several weeks before Labor Day.

Did you know that in the U.S. state of Virginia, the amusement park industry has successfully lobbied for legislation requiring most school districts in the state to have their first day of school after Labor Day? True! It gives families another weekend to visit amusement parks in the state. The relevant statute has been nicknamed the “Kings Dominion law” after one such amusement park in Virginia.

For sports in the United States, Labor Day weekend marks the beginning of many fall sports. NCAA football teams usually play their first games that weekend and the NFL traditionally play their kickoff game the Thursday following Labor Day. NASCAR races are held on Labor Day weekend each year at Darlington Raceway and at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the National Hot Rod Association holds their finals of the NHRA U.S. Nationals drag race series. Finally, Labor Day is the middle point between weeks one and two of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships held in Flushing Meadows, New York.

To take advantage of large numbers of potential customers with time to shop, Labor Day has become an important weekend for discounts and allowances by many retailers in the United States, especially for back-to-school sales. Many retailers claim it is one of the largest sale dates of the year, second only to the Christmas season and Black Friday!