The first Monday in September was set aside as a federal holiday in 1894, one hundred nineteen years ago, but the history of Labor Day actually goes back to September 5, 1882 in New York City. It was on that day that the Central Labor Union celebrated with an official day off and grand parade. The idea spread, city to city, then state to state, until the holiday became a national day of celebration of the workers of the country.
There is some question as to who actually started the idea of the celebration. Some believe that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters started all this fun and frivolity, while others believe it was Matthew Maguire, a machinist who is responsible. According to the U.S. Labor Department, Matthew Maguire is quoted as saying the day was to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
And how do we celebrate? Some call it the last opportunity of failing summer for an outdoor celebration, BBQs, camping trips, see the seashore, visit a lake, or, if you happen to be within a hundred miles or so of Sparks, Nevada, eat too many of the finest smoked and BBQd ribs available in the country.
The actual holiday will be September 2 this year and those that are close enough will probably start getting the effects of those large smokers about Friday, August 30. When the breeze is just right one can gain ten pounds just driving east or west along I-80, and more than one driver has lost the concept of staying in one’s lane doing the looky-look at seventy MPH.
Back in 1882, the Central Labor Union of New York City offered a proclamation to the labor force and basically outlined how Labor Day should be celebrated. Here is what they said, and as you’ll read, we haven’t changed much in the last century:
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.
It’s the last major weekend of the summer, the kids have either already returned to the classroom or will Tuesday, the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are cooling off, thoughts of blizzards, skiing, smoke from the chimney instead of the Weber give impetus to the celebration.
If you happen to work five eight hour shifts per week, and get at least a minimum wage, you can thank those people in New York City who created what we call Labor Day back in 1882. And the best way to thank them, is to celebrate the holiday.
Cold beer will soon be replaced by hot buttered rum, lawn chairs by recliners, and lawn mowers by snow shovels, so, yeah, it’s a good time to have a grand party. Break out a rack of ribs, a large brisket of beef, several pounds of bratwurst, or a couple of chickens, fire up the grill and let’s get it on.