Celebrating Labor Day in History, Origins, and an Easy Menu

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Explore the history of Labor Day, how it became a day to recognize and appreciate laborers’ hard work, and an easy Labor Day Menu.

Celebrating Labor Day Then... and Now | 31Daily.com
The Picnic Grounds by John French Sloan, Date: 1906

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Labor Day is one of those special in-between holidays sandwiched between celebrations generally considered more illustrious and important. In fact, that is exactly why it is always celebrated on the first Monday of September … it is … in-between.

History of Labor

In 1882, after visiting Toronto’s Labor Day celebrations, Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, decided to create a workers’ parade in New York City on September 5th. The date was chosen because of the long holiday void between July 4th and Thanksgiving—literally, an “in-between” holiday.

Working conditions in that day were much different from those of today. People did not make a living wage, and most worked 6 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, 52 weeks a year. Sunday was the only respite.

Celebrating Labor Day Then... and Now | 31Daily.com

Paid vacations were non-existent, breaks were few and far between, and most worked through the holidays with perhaps a Christmas Day break. Factory working conditions were harsh for adults and children.

Celebrating Labor Day Then... and Now | 31Daily.com

First Labor Day Observance

Imagine the sentiment on that first observance of Labor Day in 1882. Ten thousand workers marched from New York City Hall to Union Square. A sacrificial day, knowing they were relinquishing pay for that 8-hour work day. That first parade culminated at Wendel’s Elm Park, where they met their families.

A day-long celebration ensued, with picnics and concerts, political speeches, rallies, and festivities for the entire family. Thus began the very first Labor Day.

In 1887, Oregon was the first state to celebrate Labor Day as a legal holiday.

It wasn’t until 1894 that 23 states made Labor Day a state holiday. Later that year, Congress passed a bill pronouncing the first Monday in September as Labor Day, which is now a national holiday.

Celebrating Labor Day Then... and Now | 31Daily.com

The Adamson Act was passed on September 3, 1916, establishing an eight-hour workday.

Today, New York City still holds a Labor Day parade at 44th Street and 5th Avenue, although it is not held until Saturday, September 10th, this year. While Labor Day parades have diminished over the years, Chicago is reviving its, while other cities hold various festivities during the three-day weekend.

And while we may give a nod to its history, most of us celebrate Labor Day as the end of summer and an advent of seasonal change.

Poetic Thoughts on Labor Day

Poet Nancy Hughes penned these words regarding Labor Day…

Celebrating Labor Day Then... and Now | 31Daily.com

Summer’s End

No flowers to plant,
No garden to tend,
As summertime lazily
Comes to an end.

It’s time to sit back
and deliciously savor
The beauty of the season
and the fruits of our labor.

Farewell to summer;
for autumn make way,
With this last celebration
We call Labor Day.

A Time to Celebrate

So, as the season begins its transformation, take an opportunity to celebrate all that was beautiful about summer and infuse it with the hope of autumn. Have a party, grill something tasty, gather friends and family… and celebrate!

A Menu

While I’ve found it impossible to discover a menu of picnic foods served on that first 1882 Labor Day, here are some interesting observations:

1880: A patent for the first “grain-crushing” flour mill was issued.

1881: Wisconsin. The first Ice Cream Sunday was invented. The first syrup? Chocolate, of course.

1881:  Dr. Satori Kato of Japan introduced the first instant coffee at the Pan American World Fair.

1882 Swiss flour manufacturer Julius Maggi begins commercial production of the first bouillon cubes.

1882 Modern cream separator was invented.

I would imagine on that first Labor Day, one might expect to find instant coffee — and Ice Cream Sundays!

Here’s what we’re making this weekend!

Grilled and Tender Foil-Wrapped Baby Back Ribs | 31Daily.com

Easy Labor Day Menu

Happy Labor Day!

More End of Summer Recipes

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