At its very core, the first Monday in September was originally intended as a well-deserved salute to those who made this country the finest around the globe — the American worker.
Yet, a new age dawned long ago and brought with it a broader and more convenient look to the late-summer holiday.
The concept that made Labor Day a grand tradition remains ingrained in the American mindset as it aptly pays homage to those who earn a paycheck weekly, biweekly, monthly or in any cycle, and who do it by punching a time clock or sitting behind the desk of a salaried leader.
But Labor Day now — in 2013 — has taken on added meaning.
At least, in America ...
Labor Day is celebrated as the symbolic end of the summer; final picnics, one last plunge into recreational waters, a season-ending camping excursion and maybe even an indulgence in this year’s final watermelon.
Labor Day has taken on high fashion; the holiday is now considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable for women to wear white.
Labor Day is now a favored time of year for gridiron lovers everywhere; it marks the approximate beginning of the National Football League and college football seasons. NCAA teams traditionally play their first games around Labor Day and the NFL follows suit just after that, sometimes on the first Thursday after Labor Day.
Labor Day routinely tries to make its mark on education, but the effort is truly laborious. Some universities resume fall classes just before, some just after and some ... well, whenever they desire. High schools are nowhere near a holiday accord. Most start their new sessions long before the holiday although many parents wish it would come afterward.
Labor Day often serves as a gateway into autumn; the season of color is still three weeks away, but yard workers begin noticing a slowed growth rate amid their grasses of green and even some natural seeding, and lawn mower operators rejoice in chorus, “Hallelujah!”
In spite of all indications, Labor Day is not a confusing holiday; it is merely a mixed blessing.
It marks the calendar of seasonal change, fashion, sports and schooling, but at its fundamental roots Labor Day remains a celebration of the contributions to America by the American worker.
First observed on Sept. 5, 1882, Labor Day became a federal holiday two years later although historians argue over the true founder. Some credit it to Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. Others favor Matthew Maguire who served as secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J.
It is appropriate debate for followers whose enjoyment of history far exceeds our own.
Our belief is Labor Day is best left to the imaginations, and the wills, of those who celebrate it — whether in a well-organized workers’ parade, a family reunion, a backyard cookout or a relaxing day at the lake.
It is a rightful holiday, one that honors the American worker as the American worker wishes to be honored — at work or at play.
To each, his own.
And to each, her own ... regardless of the color of her dress.