Labor Day 2021 is tied to a brief history of working Americans in america.
Is that the smell of sizzling burgers and half-melted popsicles beside the pool on a perfect September afternoon? It must mean it’s Labor Day. But when is Labor Day this year (and the following five after that) and exactly how did it come about?
You may know it for barbecues and the unofficial cutoff for wearing white clothing, but Labor Day — which is celebrated on Sept. 6 this season — has disputed origins. In general, you can thank some 19th century Americans for this break from the workweek.
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We’ll explain what September dates the vacation is through 2026, the way the custom to stop wearing white after Labor Day emerged and the holiday’s disputed origins.
When is Labor Day weekend in 2021, 2022 and more?
Labor Day falls on the first Monday of every September. Here are the dates for every single holiday through 2026.
Upcoming Labor Days
|Year||Day it falls on|
What’s the story behind not wearing white after Labor Day?
You know the phrase, “no white after Labor Day.” This fashion rule says to put all of your white attire at the back of the wardrobe. But with weeks of warm weather left, why has it become a widespread end-of-summer practice?
The creators of the fashion edict were wealthy, high-society 19th century women who found their social lives being invaded by “new money” newcomers. To establish their place from brand-new millionaires in the social hierarchy, insider knowledge became a common practice to separate families with established privilege from new arrivals to high society. According to lore, the introduction of Labor Day provided a checkpoint at the end of summer time social season to select those in the know.
Lighter fabrics also reflect the sun during hot summer months, making white a favorite and practical color within a carefree season. Custom dictated a return to darker, heavier fabrics once cooler weather came. However, fashion icon Coco Chanel and former first lady Michelle Obama have famously flouted the practice. Nowadays, respected etiquette guides reveal that the rule is really a thing of the past. No need to tuck that white shirt away!
Where did Labor Day come from, anyway?
Labor Day is attributed to two different origins, and it doesn’t help that the people who get credit have very similar names. And though they are indeed unrelated, their passion for improving the working conditions of Americans was very much the same.
The first version of how Labor Day came to be includes a man named Peter McGuire, the founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. He led two strikes in 1886 and 1890, which led to eventual norms of 8 hour workdays. On May 12, 1882, McGuire presented a case to the New York Central Labor Union to propose an annual holiday celebrating workers’ labor in September. A parade followed by a picnic was to go on to display the strength and “esprit de corps” of working class Americans.
The other figure credited with Labor Day’s creation was Matthew Maguire, who led strikes throughout the 1870s to help make the public aware of manufacturing workers’ exhaustive 12-hour workdays, 1 week a week. He became the Secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York and helped organize the parade and picnic credited to Peter McGuire. After President Cleveland signed your day into a federal holiday, a New Jersey editorial named Maguire — and not McGuire — the true “Father of Labor Day.” The first Labor Day celebration took place on Sept. 5, 1882, a Tuesday.
However, because Matthew Maguire held political beliefs that were considered radical for the time, Samuel Gompers — co-founder of the American Federation of Labor — didn’t want Labor Day to be associated with his organization, in line with the New Jersey Historical Society. Because of this, Gompers credited his co-founder and friend Peter McGuire because the brainchild behind Labor Day in a 1897 interview concerning the holiday’s creation, rather than Maguire.
Labor Day has been a federal holiday since 1894.
When did Labor Day become a national holiday?
While the first picnic and parade took place in New York in 1882, Labor Day didn’t become an official state event until 1887, when Oregon officially celebrated the break. Soon, the rest of the country followed suit, according to the US Department of Labor. It was declared a federal holiday in 1894. We’ll have ketchup with our hotdog, please.
The newest federal holiday is Juneteenth, signed into law by President Joe Biden with the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 18, 2021. Read more about Juneteenth — celebrated June 19 — here.
Where to find local Labor Day parades near you
Many cities and towns host their own Labor Day celebrations, including parades, town-wide festivals, cookouts and maybe even fireworks. Some places to look for Labor Day events in your community include:
- Your city’s website
- Your community’s Facebook page
- Google search “Labor Day events near me”
It’s important to note that because of the ongoing pandemic, your community’s celebration may look different this season. Read more about safety updates regarding COVID-19, including current guidelines on wearing masks in public if you’re vaccinated.