What is Labor Day and Why do We Get the Day Off?

Rosie the Riveter
Photo: National Archives/Getty

Even though it feels like summer just started, Labor Day is already almost here. For most, this holiday represents the end of the summer social season, as well as a solid excuse to spend way too much money during the inevitable influx of retail sales and promotions.

What is Labor Day, though? Have you ever wondered about the history of the day, independent of the shopping and BBQs we now associate with it? In the event that it comes up at a party over the long weekend, here's a crash course on the history of Labor Day, and why many reap the benefit of spending this day by the pool instead of toiling away at the office!

Watch: How to Pack a Suitcase for a Long Weekend

Labor Day was born of the growing awareness of the labor movement and the urge to celebrate the many achievements of the Americans who comprised the country's tireless workforce. The first iteration, a street parade and festival for workers and their families, took place on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City, as an initiative of the Central Labor Union there.

After celebrating again the following year, the union selected the first Monday in September as the official Labor Day holiday in 1884, and made a call to action for other organizations in other cities to follow suit. The idea continued to grow and spread with the swell of labor organizations established across the country.

Oregon was the first state to declare an Official Labor Day holiday in 1887, but it wasn't long before other states, like New York, Massachusetts, and Colorado came up with similar legislation. Finally in 1896, under President Grover Cleveland, the first Monday in September became a national holiday.

So, folks, there you have it! Now you can drop some knowledge while enjoy your day of super sales and BBQs!

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