To many people, Labor Day means a three-day weekend to end the summer. It’s one last chance to enjoy a day off, soaking up the warm weather before school resumes and summer fades into fall.

But why do we get the day off on Labor Day? If it’s about labor, shouldn’t we be working?

At its most basic, labor means work. Laborers are workers. Labor Day is a yearly celebration of the contributions that workers — whether in offices, on assembly lines, in mines or on factory floors — have made to make the U.S. the strong, prosperous country it is.

In the 19th century, labor groups — called unions — began to form in many industries. They sought to help workers fight for fair pay and safe working conditions. Over time, these labor groups asked for special recognition for the role that American workers played in the advancement of the U.S. as an economic and social power.

The first celebration of Labor Day occurred on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, when the Central Labor Union held a celebration of the working man. Two years later, in 1884, the Knights of Labor — a labor group in New York City — held a large parade to celebrate working people. Soon, labor groups around the U.S. began to ask states to recognize Labor Day as a holiday.

In 1887, the states of Oregon, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey declared Labor Day to be an official state holiday. A few years later, in 1894, Congress established Labor Day as an official national holiday.

Today, we celebrate Labor Day each year on the first Monday in September. Many cities across the U.S. hold parades and community celebrations on Labor Day.

Since Labor Day is a day of rest for many workers, celebrations also usually involve time spent with family and friends. Many families use the three-day weekend created by Labor Day to hold family reunions and barbecues or to take short trips before the summer ends.

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  1. I love Labor Day because we get a day off before school starts. I think Labor Day is important because people get time to spend with family and friends. This Labor Day, I spent time with my Uncle John because it was his birthday. We had so much fun!

    Maddy M.

    • We’re glad your long weekend was super fun, Maddy! You’re right, Labor Day is a GREAT time to enjoy hanging out and having fun with family and friends! :-)

  2. We enjoyed watching the video, it allowed us to discuss what labor means. We thought it was interesting to see the horses as the primary source of transportation. We also noticed they rode on dirt roads. The sheets on the wagon made it look like a ghost car. :)

    • It was fun to see a Labor Day parade from so very long ago, wasn’t it, Kerrick Elementary School 2nd/EBD classroom? Thank you for leaving us TWO comments today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why don’t we work on Labor Day?
  • When did Labor Day become a national holiday?
  • How do people usually celebrate Labor Day?

Wonder Gallery

business man doctor nurse_shutterstock_23776111laborday-3laborday-2laborday-1Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to work? Check out the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • What better way to celebrate Labor Day than by laboring…all day! Get outside and mow the grass. Maybe you can pull some weeds, wash the car, take out the trash, wash the dishes and vacuum the carpets, too! What do you mean that doesn’t sound like fun? Well, they don’t call it work for nothin’! Even though some chores may not be fun, they still must be done. Take some time to think about all the work around your house and yard that has to be done on a regular basis. Who usually does these chores? Could you help out? Sharing the burden of work that has to be done is one common characteristic of being in a family.
  • While you’re thinking about work, try to take some time to think about what you want to be when you grow up. Just about everyone has to work at some type of job to make a living when they grow up. Since work takes up a lot of time, it’s important to choose a career that you will enjoy. Talk with people you know about the jobs they have now and have held in the past. What types of jobs did they like? What jobs did they dislike? What things are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Are there jobs that use those interests and skills? What advice can others give you?
  • When you’re finished thinking about your future, take some time to enjoy the present with your friends and family. Celebrate the hard work they do by relaxing with them and appreciating your time together. Go for a hike, play cards or share a meal. There are thousands of great ways you can spend time together. Enjoy your Labor Day! It’ll be time to head back to work or school soon enough!

Still Wondering

Help develop a broader and deeper understanding of the Labor Day holiday with EconEdLink’s interactive How Labor Got Its Day lesson!

Test Your Knowledge

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