The Meaning of Labor Day: What It Is and How To Use It

What is the meaning of Labor Day, and why is it celebrated? This article will teach you all about this American holiday and its origins.

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In America, many workers look forward to the Labor Day holiday, an unofficial end-of-summer holiday filled with festivities like picnics, parades, and barbecues. What is the origin of this national holiday, and what does it mean to American workers? Keep reading to learn about the key labor organizations and labor unions that make Labor Day weekend and public holidays like it possible. 

What Does Labor Day Mean?

According to Dictionary, Labor Day is an American federal holiday held in celebration of laborers or workers. This day off is celebrated on the first Monday in September. The jury is still out on whether it is okay to wear white after Labor Day!

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers and laborers make to the country. This holiday advocates for workers’ rights to fair treatment, fair pay, and fair hours and began as a fight from labor unions for all of those aforementioned topics.

What Is the Origin of Labor Day?

According to the Department of Labor, Labor Day originated as a state holiday only recognized by a few states. Between 1885 and 1897, Oregon, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey were all celebrating Labor Day. By 1894, 25 more states followed suit, and in June of 1894, Congress passed Labor Day as an official federal holiday.

Some events that led to the Labor Day holiday’s federal recognition are the 1886 Chicago protest in which workers in Haymarket Square demanded an eight-hour day. This violent demonstration was exacerbated by police who bombed the protestors — killing many — and the laborers bombing the police in response. Some people think that anarchist organizers were behind it, and the event is now known as the Haymarket Affair or Haymarket Riot.

Additionally, workers boycotted the Pullman Palace Car Company after facing terrible treatment. During the Pullman Strike, Cleveland sent in federal troops, which escalated things and caused numerous deaths. These political demonstrations at the height of the Industrial Revolution, coupled with the ongoing work of labor unions, caused several states to adopt the idea of Labor Day so that the average American could celebrate workers.

The Founder of Labor Day 

There is quite a debate about who founded the official Labor Day holiday, but many people credit both Peter J. McGuire and Matthew Maguire. Peter McGuire co-founded the American Federation of Labor. Peter was the secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, while Matthew Maguire was a machinist and secretary of the International Association of Machinists and Central Labor Union. 

President Grover Cleveland signed the Labor Day bill into law, and both McGuire and Maguire were celebrated at the first Labor Day parade held in New York City. New York was the first state in the United States to adopt the holiday, and the federal government held the street parade there in commemoration. 

When Do Other Countries Celebrate Labor Day?

According to Time and Date, a Labor Day Holiday is celebrated on different dates in many countries. Over 160 countries celebrate Labor Day on May 1st, while the United States and Canada celebrate it on the first Monday in September. This could mean that Labor Day might land on a Saturday or Labor Sunday.

In the United Kingdom and its neighboring country Ireland, the holiday is celebrated on the first Monday after May 1st. In Australia and New Zealand, it is celebrated on the first Monday, fourth Monday, or the second Monday in May, March, or October, depending on the state. In China, the Labor day celebration is a week long so that people can travel. 

Below, you can learn how many non-English-speaking countries refer to Labor Day. There are many ways that countries might celebrate Labor Day or International Workers’ Day, but all of these holidays are meant to celebrate workers:

  • Norwegian – Arbeidernes dag
  • Croatian – Praznik rada
  • Dutch – Dag van de Arbeid
  • Arabic – عيد العمال
  • Greek – Εργατική Πρωτομαγιά
  • French – La fête du Travail
  • Chinese – 国际劳动节
  • Spanish – Día del Trabajo
  • Italian – Festa del Lavoro
  • Polish – Święto Pracy
  • German – Tag der Arbeit
  • Czech – Svátek práce
  • Danish – Arbejdernes kampdag
  • Portuguese – Dia do Trabalhador
  • Hungarian – A munka ünnepe
  • Romanian – Ziua Muncii
  • Norwegian (nynorsk) – Arbeidernes dag
  • Slovenian – praznik dela

What Are Other American Federal Holidays?

There are many other federal American holidays that we celebrate annually. These holidays celebrate American history, important individuals, or groups that deserve recognition. On these holidays, all government entities are closed, and many other businesses close down as well. 

Take a look at the below list of holidays from Federal Pay to see when each federal holiday will be celebrated in the year 2022.

  • Columbus Day – Monday – October 10th, 2022
  • New Year’s Day – Friday – December 31st, 2021
  • Juneteenth Independence Day – Monday – June 20th, 2022
  • Labor Day – Monday – September 5th, 2022
  • Independence Day – Monday – July 4th, 2022
  • Christmas Day – Monday – December 26th, 2022
  • Veterans Day – Friday – November 11th, 2022
  • Thanksgiving Day – Thursday – November 24th, 2022
  • Memorial Day – Monday – May 30th, 2022
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Monday – January 17th, 2022
  • Washington’s Birthday – Monday – February 21st, 2022


Labor Day is a legal holiday celebrated federally in the United States to recognize the contributions workers make to the country. This holiday was created by the American labor movement in the late 1800s to fight for fair wages and an eight-hour workday. Now, it is celebrated around the world in many different countries.


  1. Labor Day / May Day | Time and Date 
  2. The History And Meaning Of Labor Day |
  3. History of Labor Day | Department of Labor 
  4. List of Federal Holidays for 2022 and 2023 | Federal Pay