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.
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.