Labor Day 2020

April 1, 2021
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Why (and how) Labor Day became a federal holiday.

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

The U.S. Department of Labor on the significance of Labor Day.


  • Holiday’s founder debated, but labor unions advocated for it for many years before the movement gained steam.
  • 1880s: Celebrated first as a local or state holiday. First Labor Day parade took place in NYC. 23 states celebrated it before it became a federal holiday.
  • 1894: Pres. Cleveland made it a holiday to celebrate the “nobility” of work and givie the working man “a reasonable amount of rest and recreation.”
“Lager beer kegs … mounted in every conceivable place.”

One description of the first Labor Day Parade in New York City, which took place in 1882. Some ten thousand labor union workers were present. to celebrate their trades. The parade ended with speeches, cigars, and (ahem) beverages.

“Of course you can wear white after Labor Day, and it makes perfect sense to do so in climates where September’s temperatures are hardly fall-like… The true interpretation is ‘wear what’s appropriate—for the weather, the season, or the occasion.'”

The Emily Post Institute's take on the "no white after Labor Day rule". The rule's origins aren't entirely clear, but it likely originated among wealthy urban dwellers in the early 1900s.

This year is the 126th year Labor Day will be celebrated as a federal holiday. It's one of only ten and the last one of the 19th century. Veterans Day, Columbus Day, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday became federal holiday during the 20th century. Some believe the federal gov't should make Election Day a federal holiday

A quick read on Labor Day: Here’s a more complete backgrounder if you want more: Labor Day

A fun read from 2014: Why We Can’t Wear White After Labor Day

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Wearing White After Labor Day

by Jenna Lee,