So, I gotta be honest. Up until writing this post, I actually didn’t know the history behind Labor Day. Why question a 3-day weekend, right? For the majority of my teens and twenties, Labor Day was simply the weekend I saw Dave Matthews at the Gorge before heading back to school.
But the history behind Labor Day is as interesting as it is empowering.
Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 (pictured: a lithograph of the parade in New York City on Labor Day). In 1887 it was established to be celebrated yearly on the first Monday in September to honor the American Labor Movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country (source). A group of the key players within this movement called themselves The Knights of Labor. The Knights believed in the unity of the interests of all producing groups and sought to empower not just laborers but everyone who could be truly classified as a producer (source).
For most of us, work is a commitment that takes up most of our time. But, though work dominates most of the hours of our week, it is also the one thing that we can routinely do week in, week out. Think about your work week rhythm. Now replace your work with something else. Can you imagine doing something else for 40-60 hours, week in, week out? Exercising? Watching television? Reading books? Playing golf? I’ve heard people say, “When I retire I’m going to play a lot of golf.” But 40 hours a week of golf? Or television? Try keeping that up for a few weeks. We aren’t made to do that.
But we are made to work. We can handle work in large quantities of time, unlike other activities. We are made to be creative. We are made to produce things. Just like the Knights of Labor believed in the late 1800s, the movement wasn’t just for laborers, but anyone who produced anything. I have a friend who is a project manager, but her passion is baking cupcakes. She spends time dreaming of flavor combinations to try. She carves time out of her schedule to carefully craft and decorate them. And then she lets me eat them. She is a “laborer” (project manger by day) and “producer” (cupcake creator by night). You take away her labor and she is still a producer. Take away what she produces, and she’s still a laborer.
The point is this: we are made for work. We are made for Labor Day.
Happy Labor Day everyone!