By the time September rolls around, most countries have already celebrated “Labor Day”. Approximately 100 countries pay tribute to labor unions and the struggles of the working class on May 1st. It’s a holiday officially known as International Workers’ Day and commonly called May Day or Labour Day (notice the “u” 😉). It can be translated, for example, as La fête du Travail in French, عيد العمال in Arabic, or 国际劳动节 in Chinese.
And just to emphasize even further that #culturematters, in Australia Labour Day is a holiday that varies by state and territory. For example, it takes place on the first Monday in October in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, and South Australia. Yet, Western Australia, Victoria, and Queensland all celebrate it on different dates!
In the US (and Canada), Labo(u)r Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. So, let’s look at five fast facts in advance of the US American Labor Day holiday:
1. The first Labor Day parade took place in NYC.
Do you think you work long hours? At the end of the 19th century, the typical American was working seven days a week for 12 hours a day in poor conditions, for little pay, in an industrial environment! In September 1882, the Central Labor Union organized a parade where 10,000+ workers gave themselves the day off (without pay) and marched from NYC’s City Hall to Union Square.
2. Labor Day and May Day… same same, but different.
A few years after that NYC parade, workers were protesting in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, demanding an eight-hour workday. A bomb went off and killed police officers and civilians alike. Countries that celebrate International Workers Day on May 1st do so in connection with this May 1886 demonstration to show solidarity with worker protests. However, when US President Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894, he intentionally distanced it from the tragic Haymarket Square events.
3. You CAN wear white after Labor Day.
We do culture, not fashion, but this unofficial fashion rule seems to be outdated. Back in the day, white symbolized vacation clothes for the upper class who had the privilege of fleeing the big cities during the summer. Upon their return from vacation, they would stow away their white clothing and mark the end of the season. Nowadays, even the Emily Post Institute etiquette experts say that white can be worn 365 days a year. So go for it!
4. Labor Day… the Summer Bummer.
Americans often think of Labor Day as the unofficial end to summer. While people in industries such as hospitality, food service, retail, medicine, or law enforcement are often obligated to work over the holiday, for many others it’s a time to enjoy the last few days of summer before returning to work or school. The organized labor protests of the past have given way to barbecues, parties, parades, and sporting events with friends and family.
5. Labor Day is not for homebodies.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2019 (pre-Covid) Americans took 7.4 billion trips over the holiday weekend. Only 19% stayed home! That being said, the vast majority of these were local trips under 50 miles (80 km) away.
Wherever and whenever YOU celebrate Labor Day, we wish you a good one!