Labor Day 2023

August 31, 2023
Sunset behind an American flag

Labor Day

Why we take a break to celebrate work!
From origins (parades & kegs) to traditions (wearing white or not), we take a closer look at this federal holiday.
“Observed the first Monday in September, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America's strength, prosperity, and well-being.”

The United States Department of Labor


  • The holiday’s founder is debated, but labor unions advocated for the celebration many years before the movement gained steam.

  • 1880s: First celebrated as a local/state holiday. The first Labor Day parade took place in NYC on Sept. 5, 1882. ~23 states celebrated it before it became a federal holiday.

  • June 28, 1894: President Grover Cleveland made it a federal holiday; the House Committee on Labor's report on the legislation stated that honoring work with a national holiday will ensure “that the nobility of labor [will] be maintained."

“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 to twenty thousand workers, both women and men, were present to celebrate their trades. The New York Tribune reported: "The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization." The first Labor Day parade closed 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.

2023 marks the 129th year Labor Day will be celebrated as a federal holiday. It's one of only twelve – and the last one established in the 19th century. The Congressional Research Service notes, "Federal holidays have been created for a number of reasons … each holiday was designed to emphasize a particular aspect of American heritage or to celebrate an event in American history." Some believe the federal government should make Election Day a federal holiday.

A quick read on Labor Day: Here’s a more complete background if you're looking to learn more: Labor Day

History of Labor Day (U.S. Department of Labor)

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

Labor Daze – Pride, Chaos and Kegs on Labor's First 'Day' (U.S. Department of Labor)

Wearing White After Labor Day (Emily Post)

10 fascinating facts about the Labor Day holiday (National Constitution Center)

by Jenna Lee,