The Real Reasons We Have Labor Day

Posted by Kurt Rakos on 9/5/22 8:51 AM
Kurt Rakos
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Rest, Reflect, and Recognize

Labor Day

Sure, your calendar says that the last day of summer is September 22nd. But if you’re like most of us in the United States, you know when summer really ends: Labor Day.  For most American workers – and their school-age children – the first Monday in September is a moment of transition. Monday is our last full day of the summertime slow, lazy mornings, and reduced pressures. Come Tuesday, it’s back to the business of higher expectations and a markedly faster pace.

Little wonder, then, that Labor Day has become such a cherished national day off.  But, as we pack the car for the last trip to the cabin or gather up our supplies for the big barbeque on Monday, this is also a wonderful time to step back and gather up our thoughts and our reserves, before heading back into the office on Tuesday. It’s also a great time to “check-in” with ourselves at the start gate of what promises to be a very busy, very important next several months.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to mess with your holiday by suggesting you take on any unpleasant chores. Quite the opposite. I encourage everyone to embrace the break that Labor Day promises. But let’s also take advantage of this wonderful holiday to revisit the deeper, original meanings of the Labor Day holiday.

What is Labor Day anyway?

There’s actually some historical confusion about who really came up with the idea of creating a Labor Day observance in the United States. But after a local version of Labor Day was first celebrated – on a Tuesday – in New York City in 1882, 32 states adopted the idea, passing bills to honor their workers. Eventually, the United States Congress not only designated Labor Day as a national day of observance, but they also bumped it back to Monday, giving us all that last-hurrah 3-day weekend to close out the summer. What a gift. Yet somehow, over the years, it seems that we’ve lost track of the why of Labor Day.

If you’re a worker, whether actively employed, currently job hunting, or retired, this day honors the economic and social contributions you make to our country.  Think about that for a minute. It’s a day to celebrate you. And me. And everyone with whom we work – and on whom we depend – to do get good work done.  It’s our effort, innovation, and accomplishment that fuel this nation. Labor Day is one way our country says thank you.

Rest and Recreation

No matter what job you do, your work contributes to the success of your family, your community, and your country. You deserve an extra break, especially now in the calm before the September ramp-up begins. Don’t skip it.  But do something that actually recharges your batteries. Take your break. If that annual barbeque is more stressful than serene, why not skip it? Look up fun ideas close to home that might inspire you, from a music festival to movie night in the park. And plan something special, no matter how small, with the people who matter most to you.

Reflect on what matters

Maybe you’re not planning to attend a parade or listen to a bunch of politicians make speeches. And maybe (probably) that’s a good thing. But consider this question: if you were asked to give a speech about Labor Day to your own family members and dearest friends, what would you say? Hopefully, you’d take some time to think about their role in your accomplishments. Hopefully, you’d find a few words to describe how their encouragement has buoyed you during your career, and how their very presence in your life has strengthened your sense of purpose. Those things – or similar thoughts – are likely true for you. They’re true for me. Yet I’m sometimes reminded that I don’t say them out loud to those important people often enough.

Recognize who matters

This one is pretty simple. As you launch into your much-deserved long weekend, look around you. Think about those talking points you would muster if someone asked you to make a speech. And consider making it. No podium is necessary. Just say it out loud. Or write it down. Because this is your team. Without them, work would be far more difficult and far less rewarding.

And have a Happy Labor Day.


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