Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September for more than a century, is an unusual holiday with an assorted history. It truly is an American holiday which does not stem from any religious belief.

Labor Day is American in the continental sense of the word as it spans two countries, the United States and Canada. It is not to be confused with International Labor Day which is celebrated in conjunction with May Day in many countries.

The celebration of laborers’ accomplishments originated in Canada. In 1872, a Canadian law passed that recognized the legality of unions. On its tenth anniversary, Toronto had a huge labor celebration. Peter J. McGuire, an American labor leader, was attracted to the idea.

McGuire chose Sept. 5 to celebrate the accomplishments of labor. At first the day seemed doomed to chaos as thousands gathered in the streets of Manhattan, some to march in a parade and many to spectate.

Disorder changed to order when a jewelers’ union showed up with instruments to form a band and guide the parade. Matthew Maguire of the Central Labor Union of New York is credited with recognizing the band’s importance and helped to pull the event together.

Debate continues about whether McGuire or Maguire is “the Father of Labor Day.” At any rate, the first Monday in September was established officially as Labor Day in the United States. Canada conformed.

The date was chosen because the dog days of summer had subsided with the weather optimal for outdoor activities. The date was deemed ideal as it gave workers a holiday between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.

President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law recognizing the holiday for all federal workers. For decades unions in various states encouraged workers to strike for time off on Labor Day. After much dispute, Labor Day became legally recognized in all states.

Helping to mitigate the controversy, many traditions developed regarding Labor Day. It was promoted as the official end of summer, a time to get back to school and begin fall sports.

For decades, Labor Day signaled the end of wearing white. Society’s women put away white gloves, shoes, and dresses. Social pressure encouraged the buying of clothing and accessories in fall colors at Labor Day sales. Harkening back, an online clothing store now advertises “A new color code: Fall!”

Also for decades, Labor Day was marked by back-to-school sales. Throughout California though, schools have been in session for weeks, so Labor Day is now the first holiday of the school year. The day is warm enough for a swim party or other outdoor fun.

Normally, National Collegiate Athletic Association teams begin playing games on Labor Day weekend. As far back as 1950 the Southern 500 NASCAR auto race was held on this weekend. National Hot Rod Association drag race finals are held. The weekend is the midpoint of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

The National Football League has chosen the Thursday after Labor Day to play the season’s kickoff game. Games played before this date are “pre-season.”

Locally, the NFL kickoff game this year has special significance. On Sept. 8, Westside’s own Josh Allen from Firebaugh, quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, leads his team in SoFi Stadium against the Los Angeles Rams.

Everyone cannot travel to Los Angeles for this exciting event, so many local homes will be filled with spectators gathered around televisions. The starting time of 5:20 p.m. means that supper may be with friends while viewing the game.

Enjoy watching favorite sporting events without fussing with meal preparations. Support local business and order food to go. For the Pizza Factory in Dos Palos call (209) 392-6124. Order a party tray from Subway by calling (209) 364-5155. Dos Palos Donuts also has burgers, sandwiches, and Chinese food, so call (209) 392-2599. Online ordering is available.

Janet Miller

Janet Miller is a freelance writer specializing in family faith. She offers Family Prayers and Activities: Weekly Guides on compact disc for families to explore the Bible together. Email