We consider Labor Day each year – just about this week, too!
Right around this time of year, many of us hear the same question: Why does everyone have the day off from work on Labor Day? That is exactly why Labor Day was created – to give working people a day off. Since 1882, Labor Day has been observed as a Federal holiday in the United States. And like all great holidays, this one was christened with a big parade in New York City.
The Department of Labor gives us this: “The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.” (http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm)
There is no doubt that the day was designed for fun, leisure, and appreciation (and nowadays, T-shirts!), but what is in question is the holiday’s originator. Labor Day comes to us, in a very roundabout way, from ancient Ireland. Maguire and McGuire are the surnames of the men in contention for the honor of founding Labor Day. Both names, according to Wikipedia, come from the Magi of Éire, or the priests of ancient Ireland.
Peter McGuire founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the largest trade union of its time. Matthew Maguire was instrumental in bringing “the plight of manufacturing workers and their long hours into the public consciousness.” (http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-maguire.htm) Maguire is usually the winner in this contest, but he seems to have been overlooked as “Father of Labor Day” because of some of his more radical political beliefs.
Regardless of the progenitor of the day, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of summer. And we love all it has come to symbolize – honoring workers, summer, and the new beginning of the school year!