What the hell is Labor Day? Well, it’s a day off to celebrate work. Modeled after a labor festival in Toronto, it was first celebrated in New York in 1882. Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday, in 1887. By 1894, in an apparent effort to kiss and make up with labor unions, President Grover Cleveland signed into law Labor Day as federal holiday. This was a mere six days after the army and federal marshals had busted up the Pullman strike to the tune of 13 deaths. It was Cleveland’s last term as president, non-consecutive or otherwise.
Labor Day is celebrated on May 1 in many countries, but in the U.S. it marks the unofficial end of summer. That suits me fine; we don’t need their metric system, so why do we need their holiday schedule? But the greater question is whether Labor Day is as a holiday is great – or lame. Let’s break it down.
Time of year/day of the week. Labor Day gets points from our team of 350 expert holiday-appraisers for rightly falling on a fixed, weekend-adjacent day of the week. Like its ante-vernal brethren Memorial Day, Labor Day is on a Monday, so you (hopefully) get a three-day weekend regardless of whether some dude was born or some mammal was slaughtered on some exact day that people today presume to know. Remember the Golden Rule of Holidays according to Little Earthquake: It’s not a real holiday if it falls on a day you already have off. Blasphemy? Hardly. Give the people what they deserve, governor!
Although it marks the beginnings of the seasons of impending decay and death, Labor Day still has the dignity to occur during summer’s closing days, giving us one final respite before the Autumnal onslaught of school, work, elections, and Oscar-winner wannabes. It also marks a great moment in the sporting calendar – the U.S. (tennis) Open is in full swing, baseball’s pennant races are down to their final weeks, and the football season is about to explode. Rating: 9.5/10.
Tradition. I touched upon Labor Day’s tradition in the opening paragraph. Pleasingly, like Memorial Day, it forces nothing upon the celebrator. Feel free to go to a labor rally if you want; otherwise, watch the college football kickoff games and crack open a few cold ones. Rating: 9.
Activities. The usual grab-bag of summer fun – for one last summer weekend. Rating: 10.
Overall. Fun-haters decry Summer’s scandalously warm weather and accompanying outdoor festivities, all while droning on about how they can’t wait for “Fall weather.” For those not in the know, “Fall weather” is code for “temperatures ranging between 65 and 75 with no rain, wind, or humidity” – i.e., the first two weeks of September. Labor Day is a chance to have one more summer romp in spite of the complainers. Go swimming, go on a bender, see a terrible movie, gorge yourself at a barbecue, and sweat yourself sillier than Dick Nixon in the 1960 debate. Enjoy it – things are about to cool off. Rating: 9.5.
The verdict: Labor Day is a great holiday!