Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, is celebrated (and/or lamented, depending on your love of summer vs your love of all things pumpkin spice) on the first Monday of every September. According to the US Department of Labor website, “Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Hey, that’s us!!
The first Labor Day celebrations weren’t national or even statewide, but observed in municipalities. The first state to pass a law recognizing Labor Day was Oregon, in 1887. Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York were next, and then in June 1894 Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a national legal holiday.
Interestingly, the very first Labor Day celebration in the US was a Labor Day parade held in NYC on September 5, 1882. And it almost didn’t happen due to a glaring lack of planning by the parade organizers. Early on the morning of September 5, spectators began filling the sidewalks of lower Manhattan near city hall. They arrived well before the Labor Day parade marchers to claim the best vantage points. The police, wary of a riot breaking out, were also in full force and “columns of police and club-wielding officers on horseback” surrounded city hall. (I wonder what was going on in NYC in 1882 that had the police wary of riots??)
By 10am, the Grand Marshall, William McCabe, his aides and their police escort were all in place. But no one moved, and the parade didn’t start, as the few marchers that had shown up had no music. Some people in the crowd suggested to McCabe that he call off the parade. But he was adamant the “parade would go on” – with or without music. At the last moment, 200 marchers from the Jewelers Union of Newark arrived – with a band. And the parade was on!!
The parade began, led by the jewelers, followed by the Grand Marshall and crew, and then the spectators fell in behind them. Final reports of the total number of marchers ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 men and women. Which sounds like a lot, until you realize that approximately 3.5 MILLION spectators line the streets of NYC for the annual Macy’s Day Parade each year.
At noon the marchers arrived at Reservoir Park, and while some returned to work, most continued on to post-parade party that included “speeches, a picnic, an abundance of cigars and Lager beer kegs…mounted in every conceivable place.” That’s not a bad start for the very first Labor Day celebration!
Here are some other facts about Labor Day:
The Saturday before Labor Day is International Bacon Day (this year that would be September 5). This unofficial (but highly recommended) celebration of bacon is summed up by the holiday’s motto: Bacon is a Vegetable. I might not agree with the science, but I definitely agree with the sentiment.
During peak “hot dog season”, which spans from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans gorge themselves on roughly 818 hot dogs every second (or 7 billion total). Maybe I’ll have a bacon-topped hot dog on Saturday, September 5 this year.
Do you know why you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day? Because of snobby old-money elitists!! After the end of the Civil War, “society” was ruled by the wealthy wives of old-money families. (I think the definition of “society” is: places where the common US worker aren’t really welcome…) As more new-money millionaires entered “society”, the jealous crones regime invented a whole suite of arbitrary fashion rules that only those in the in-crowd would know. Anyone who showed up to an autumn party in a white dress, for example, would be instantly outed as a nouveau riche newbie. I don’t know about you, but I don’t wear white because I’m sure that within 15 seconds of wearing it, I’ll have an ink stain, coffee stain, chocolate stain, grass stain, a-stain-of-mysterious-origin on said piece of clothing. I would have fit right in with those old-money families!!
I think many of us in Montgomery county associate Labor Day with the Fonda Fair. I personally haven’t been to the fair in years, but to this day, as soon as someone mentions “the Fair has started” I think “oh, school starts soon” or “wow, it’s Labor Day already?”
Fairs are one other thing to have been curtailed due to COVID-19, and does anyone even know what’s going on with the school year? My heart goes out to parents, kids, school administrators, teachers and staff. I hope that the school year is kind to all of us. If you’re home-schooling, stop by the library as we have gathered lots of resources to help!
Remember, whatever decision you have made is the right decision for your family. And this Labor Day, as we pause to honor the American worker, I hope everyone takes a moment to remember all of the workers who are really struggling right now.
Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, and please, reach out to someone if you’re struggling. I hope you have a peaceful, loving and fun-filled – and safe! Labor Day.