Labor Day 2021

What Is Labor Day and Why Do We Celebrate It?

August 14, 2021
Labor Day Parade

First American Labor parade held in New York City on September 5, 1882.

Frank Leslie's Weekly Illustrated Newspaper

This year, Labor Day falls on Monday, September 6! Unlike many holidays, Labor Day doesn’t have many rituals associated with it, other than end-of-summer barbecues. So what is Labor Day and why do we celebrate it?

What Is Labor Day and Why Do We Celebrate It?

Always held on the first Monday in September, Labor Day is a U.S. national holiday. For many people, it’s a symbolic end of summer and start of the school year, celebrated with barbecuing and shopping.

However, it was envisioned by founders as a celebration of the American worker and the great American work ethic. It was a creation of the labor movement in the late 1800s. 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.

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.

Labor Day was all about the great American worker, the driving engine behind the most productive economy in the world, and the American work ethic that 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 the American workers but also protected their quality of life, addressing the problems of the day—from long working hours to lack of time off.

Who “Invented” Labor Day?

Labor Day was the idea of Peter J. Maguire (although recent research has shown that it might have been his brother Matthew’s idea), a labor union leader who, in 1882, proposed a celebration honoring the American worker. Peter Maguire was the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. The date chosen was simply “convenient.” Peter Maguire 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!

    When Is Labor Day?

    Year Labor Day
    2021 Monday, September 6
    2022 Monday, September 5
    2023 Monday, September 4
    2024 Monday, September 2

    How to Celebrate Labor Day Today

    Although the day’s focus on organized labor has diminished over the years, the holiday has become the last hurrah of summer—with a barbecue and day off work for many Americans.

    And even though the American work force 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. 

    So, whether you work on a farm, at a plant, in an office or at a home business, we hope that you will take this day of honor, find some work/life balance, and reflect on your good work. After all, at 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. Then go to a picnic or barbecue as our ancestral workers did so many years ago!

    Labor Day Recipes

    Ready for an outdoor barbecue and time with family or friends?  We’ve got some great recipe ideas below, courtesy of the Almanac cookbooks!

    Summer Salsa Salad. Photo by vm2002.


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

    Did you observe Labor Day? We would enjoy your feedback in the comments below.


    Reader Comments

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    Working constantly, no vacation

    How sad that just to keep up with the Joneses most U.S. citizens give up a real life to work all the time. Do you work to live or do you live to work. You never spent time with your children or your families. Even if you don't text work every five minutes you are preoccupied with work. And what do you get in the end. Not even a cheap watch. You just get written up or otherwise harassed so you can quit and go away. Your family (children) resent you for never being there. You even resent yourself for never taking time to do things you wanted to do. You worked your fingers to the bone and now all you have are bony fingers. It would be nice if the company really appreciated you and your work and gave you just compensation. If they really encouraged you to go on vacation. To spend more time with your children. Instead they vaguely remind you you might be demoted or lose your job altogether. So work, little ant, and soon the Big Boss will step on you and not even care.

    Labor Day - 1 Origin

    My late Great Grandfather, born around 1866 after Great-Great Grandfathers' returning from the Civil War, would tell me stories about life on the during the late 1800's. One was about early September when farming communities would organize for scheduling harvesting and canning farm by farm to optimize labor to the ripening crops.

    Labor Day 2020

    Spending the week chilling at Grand Luxxe Resort in Nuevo Vallarta.

    Labor Day

    I just want to thank Jesus and my Father God for giving me this labor day to celebrate the magnificence of his creation of this world to have for all my years of existence

    Thanks for labor day

    I share your gratitude to our Lord . Thank you for expressing the joy of the gifts we have been given



    Will Chicago hit big snow

    Will Chicago hit big snow 2015& 2016

    Thank you for speaking to the

    Thank you for speaking to the true meaning of Labor Day.