Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day in the United States?

Like many stories about influential Americans long ago, the story about why we celebrate Labor Day starts with a poor upbringing and a will for change.

The man’s name was Peter J. McGuire, and long before he was a union leader in New York, he was an underprivileged son of Irish immigrants. Throughout his life, he faced and overcame adversity.

Once he’d moved into adulthood during the Technological Revolution, he establish a career as a carpenter, political activist and trade unionist. He fought for things like the eight-hour workday and fair working conditions. By the early months of 1882, he approached the Central Labor Union in New York about creating a day to celebrate the American worker. He had a vision for recognizing the people that built his homeland.

Merely months later, on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, New Yorkers gathered in the streets — rather than going to work — to celebrate their hard labor with a parade, culminating in a concert and picnic. It’s said that more than 10,000 workers took place in the celebration.

Cities across the nation took notice, and over the next several years others began to create their own unofficial holidays. What started as a great idea morphed into a movement.

By 1894, the federal government couldn’t help but acknowledge the acceptance of the celebration in cities and towns from coast to coast, and that’s when it officially established the national holiday as Labor Day.

In many ways, there’s no holiday that embodies the American spirit more than Labor Day. It’s a bold statement, I know, but think about it.

From its founding, America has been a land of grit, ambition and prosperity. Its people earned every inch of success awarded to them through hard work and determination. The work ethic began with the very first settlers, coming to a land of opportunity, as they saw it, and building cities and industry from scratch. Labor Day is an extension of that perseverance. It was meant to recognize and reward the toughness and work that went into building this country, and it continues to celebrate the hard-working men and women who drive us forward today.

Don’t look at it as just another holiday off the job — let it signify a well-deserved day off to honor all the work we’ve completed, and most importantly all the success to which that work has led.

Cheers, friends.

Published by Ed A. Murray

Ed A. Murray is an author, freelance writer, digital marketer and blogger dedicated to impactful storytelling. He writes about writing, books, marketing and life, and has published three books of fiction.

7 thoughts on “Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day in the United States?

  1. Well said, Ed! Labor Day is a much more important holiday than the usual just-the-end-of-summer appreciation it gets. While I’m here commenting, I’d like to say the updates to your website design are incredible!


  2. Nice post, but like most nice things nowadays, they are framed with leftist timber. For example, Peter McGuire was not “underprivileged”, he was most probably poor or lower middle class. His parents came here for the privileges of freedom and opportunity. And second, Labor Day was created as a sop for the Unions. That’s why it’s called Labor Day and not Thanksgiving. And it certainly wasn’t created for their bosses, who usually worked much harder and longer (though perhaps not physically). Don’t get me wrong. Blue collar work is good, proud, important work. But like everything else nowadays, it’s politicized.


    1. With all due respect, I believe being poor or lower middle class would qualify you as being underprivileged. His parents likely did come to America for the freedom and opportunity that it offered, but most immigrants had to start at the bottom before earning those liberties.

      This post was not meant to be interpreted as political, but rather solely historical.


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