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Labor Day 2024: Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

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Why Can't You Wear White After Labor Day?

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Labor Day falls on Monday, September 2, 2024. Who actually started Labor Day? Why do we celebrate this holiday in September? Find out more about this holiday as well as three ideas for celebrating Labor Day. Plus, we answer that question about why some Americans don’t wear white after this holiday.

When Is Labor Day 2024?

Labor Day is always celebrated annually on the first Monday in September. Labor Day is a federal holiday in the United States. 

Labor Day Dates
YearLabor Day
2024Monday, September 2
2025Monday, September 1
2026Monday, September 7
2027Monday, September 6

Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

The funny thing about Labor Day is that it’s the one day of the year no one expects to work! We celebrate work by not doing any. But it replicates our week. We labor, and then we rest. On Labor Day, we honor the value of labor by putting it out of our thoughts for an extra-long weekend.

Work is an activity we esteem most when we’re not doing it. In a period of unemployment, for example, work seems like the grandest and most longed-for opportunity of all.  Work is, therefore, a blessed endeavor. Whether it’s baking a casserole or doing laundry, serving customers or compiling a report, teaching a class, or making a hospital bed: Our daily labors earn our daily bread and more.

Labor Day is to celebrate you, the American worker! The founders envisioned by the organization to honor the American worker, the driving engine behind the most productive economy in the world, and the American work ethic, which resulted in one of the highest standards of living in the world. All of this came out of a belief in economic and political democracy. 

Of course, Labor Day not only celebrated American workers but also protected their quality of life. In the late 1800s, the Labor movement was created to address some of the serious problems of the day, including long working hours and lack of time off. 

Who “Invented” Labor Day?

Peter J. McGuire is often credited with coming up with the idea of Labor Day, although recent research has shown that Matthew Maguire may have been the originator. Peter McGuire was a labor union leader who, in 1882, proposed a celebration honoring the American worker. He was the general secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. The date chosen was simply “convenient.” Peter McGuire suggested that this date would nicely fall “nearly midway between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.”

Recent research indicates that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What we do know is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and made it happen!

Which President Started Labor Day?

In the U.S., the first Labor Day parade was on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September a legal national holiday every year.

The first Labor Day celebrations were parades to show the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by festivals designed for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. Speeches by prominent union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics, and government officials were among the day’s highlights.

How to Celebrate Labor Day Today

Even though the American workforce has changed dramatically since the industrial revolution, many Americans still work more hours and take less vacation than our western counterparts. We are constantly connected to our jobs with little respite; we all desire a good standard of living. 

Here are some ways to celebrate Labor Day.

  1. If you’re able to do so, take this day off to simply give yourself a break from your hard work because you deserve this national day of leisure. After all, work is where and how we spend the majority of our time. Also, take a moment to reflect on this history and the many American workers who came before us—to build our railways, roads, infrastructure, and more.
  2. Attend a Labor Day parade. Many cities and towns throw a parade or a festival. Or, enjoy a picnic or barbecue as our ancestral workers did so many years ago—and enjoy the last hurrah of summer!
Image: Summer Salsa Salad. Photo by vm2002.

3. Grill out while the weather is still nice! BBQ, outdoor cooking, and picnics are traditional on Labor Day. Relax outside, and don’t spend too much time in the kitchen. 

Labor Day Recipes

We’ve got some delicious recipe ideas below, courtesy of the Almanac cookbooks!


Also see our collections of grilling recipes and cold picnic recipes.

Why Can’t You Wear White After Labor Day?

Now, let’s get to that common question. Why is there an old-time rule about not wearing white after Labor Day? And does it still apply?

One theory about wearing white is simply that it’s cooler in an age before air conditioning; white reflects the sun instead of absorbing it. Another theory is that the end of summer meant a return to the city and work life, as many people used to take the month of August to visit the seashore. Returning to city life (often dirty) meant that dark clothes returned, and the whites weren’t practical.

Image: DenysR/Shutterstock

Of course, this idea of “summering” was more for the wealthy who could leave the city in the days of no air conditioning to escape to the seashore or mountains. So, wearing white was for those who could afford to stay clean and travel. 

Today, there really aren’t such rules about whites. We have air conditioning, we have lighter fabrics, and clothing has generally become more casual and comfortable versus the more formal suits and work clothes of the past decades. 

Still, some of us naturally change our color themes as autumn begins, just as the flowers and trees do. Consider the jewel colors of fall mums as well as the autumn foliage! What do you do?

About The Author

Heidi Stonehill

Heidi Stonehill is a senior editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, where she focuses much of her time on managing content development for the Almanac’s line of calendars. Read More from Heidi Stonehill

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