We’ve come upon the holiday that signals the end of summer and the beginning of fall.
Sadly, most of us have either forgotten, never knew, or don’t really care what Labor Day signifies or why it was established. Ironically, it seems most holidays these days is an opportunity for a day off work, family gatherings, and other things that don’t include our normal day to day routine.
Don’t get me wrong. I like long weekends just like the next person. But, in my unfortunate way of over thinking things, I started thinking about what I know or knew about this Labor Day holiday, as well as other holidays we celebrate during the course of a calendar year.
Labor Day. Today it seems almost incongruent since many don’t seem to have much respect for labor or laborers anymore – even those of us who are one of those classifications.
I refreshed my memory, some of which was accurate; some not. For those who may be momentarily interested, this day was established to celebrate those who did the work, ironically during a fairly abominable time in American labor history.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution in America, when most worked excessive hours, which still didn’t provide much more than a meager existence, Labor Day became a legal holiday. Signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894, this was a time when child labor laws were being debated, and children who today would be starting kindergarten were working in mines, mills and factories.
Forget concerns about safety. Manufacturing was overtaking agriculture as a primary employer. More than a century later, those of us who work for others have forgotten what many workers who came before us did so that working conditions today, while not always perfect, are better and fairer, and there is recourse for unsafe or unfair conditions. It might behoove most of us to pause and think about what others had to endure to provide a better situation for us today.
What about the other “Monday” holidays? George Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day); Columbus Day; Memorial Day; Martin Luther King Day. Do we stop and think about what they mean or why they were deemed worthy of a federal holiday designation?
Do we stop and think about the other major holidays we celebrate and their original intent and meaning? Have they really just become reasons to go on shopping excursions that overtax the spirit and the bank account, plan family picnics, cookouts or mini-trips?
We’re so used to the three-day weekend, or the traditional Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas that we don’t realize they weren’t always so. Christmas was out of favor as a celebration shortly after the American Revolution.
The formal establishment of Easter, along with most of the rituals that modern Christianity came to believe in and celebrate, was decided at the Council of Nicaea. George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving holiday; but, FDR signed a bill into law making the 4th Thursday in November the national Thanksgiving holiday.
We have many privileges and opportunities to celebrate the milestones in our history. It’s good to remind oneself about that history and the importance of those milestones.