I try to educate as much as possible, as this is the only way to understand the big 4; who, what, where, and why. This Monday many Americans have a day off of work. It is Labor Day and over the years it has meant and become many different things to many different groups of people. Now I will not get into the historical debate over Labor Day, I am providing the links to those sites for those curious enough to want the background, but I will go over the modern parts of the holiday.
As stated in the paragraph above there is some controversy surrounding Labor Day. What is this you say… glad you asked. Basically there are 2 versions out there as to the what and why of Labor Day. It basically goes to the organized labor camp on one side and the government on the other. Both versions agree on the rail road connection and the strike, however one side drums up the involvement of military actions and the other fails to mention that. For those who are a bit more curious got the following then decide for yourselves:
The last article is interesting as it mentions something most Americans have forgotten about. Labor Day, as we know it, is actually May Day, as the rest of the world knows it. In the election year of the 1890’s politicians and big business influence wanted to appease the workers but not honor the strikes, riots, and killings that marked May Day. The International Solicits Congress in Paris however adopted this day as a holiday and the world began to celebrate May Day as Labor Day across the world, even communists Russia and other. Moves to put Labor Day back to its original roots all failed due to the now communists connection. There are plenty of other resources for this angle: http://www.answers.com/topic/may-day being a really good one. But back to the main topic.
Labor Day is celebrated mainly for the advent of the 8 hour work day, and to mark the end of summer. It is on this last point things get a bit fuzzy. It was put in September for political reasons: 1) Election year has voting day in early November, so this day would still be fresh in everyone’s mind. 2) It separated the May day thing which had divided workers and management so in September they both could enjoy the day. 3) It diverted attention away from the government’s overuse of power to stop a crippling strike that effected mail delivery to the entire nation. Over the past few decades the origins of the day have faded and it has been celebrated mainly to mark the end of summer.
For my new Chinese readers they may find it a little odd that the communists adopted their labor day, May 1st, from an American strike in 1877 and to coincide with European pagan rooted spring festivals. The real interesting part of this is the response to the whole affair by the American political machine, having each president read a statement on May 1st declaring it Law and Obedience day. Funny huh!?! Well, it seems that this Labor Day as we celebrate a day off of work (not me as I am working in Shanghai) and the end of summer it is worth pausing to remember we actually started a movement that became global and is still recognized today, a truly international holiday that transcends all governments, religions, races, etc. Understanding what we do, why we do it, and how it all came to be is very eye opening to some and at least very interesting and thought provoking to others.