Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. The official end of summer is Sept. 22.
In odd numbered years like this one, it is also the unofficial kickoff of the City Council campaign season. In keeping with that, a lot of political campaign signs went up over the long weekend.
It’s appropriate that Labor Day is the kickoff of the campaign season because there cannot be a more political holiday. Following the Pullman Strike of 1894 – where the US Army was called out and killed some strikers – Congress and President Grover Cleveland were looking for a way to make peace with the unions (or to be more accurate were looking for a way to win union votes) and a few days after the strike Labor Day became a national holiday.
Until I looked it up, I didn’t know that Labor Day was a day to celebrate unions. I’ve never been a fan of unions, but you have to take holidays when you can get them.
It is kind of amazing that Labor Day has survived when so many holidays seem to have fallen by the wayside – at least as far as businesses are concerned. The federal government continues to close down for all kinds of holidays that nobody else has recognized in decades.
But the fact that Labor Day should be called Union Day explains why, at least in North Carolina, there is no big celebration.
In fact, unlike other holidays, there are virtually no traditional Labor Day events. Other holidays’ traditions include people dressing up in red white and blue and marching around the neighborhood; setting off loud, colorful and dangerous explosive devices; having traditional big family arguments over whether dinner should be served hot or after the football game ends; toting dead trees into the house; requiring late night drinking; running around the yard looking for wildly colored chicken embryos that were reportedly distributed by a large lagomorph; or children going from house to house threatening homeowners with dire consequences if they don’t hand over some candy.
Often things that don’t make sense are because of politics, and Labor Day seems to fit the mold. There is no tradition for Labor Day because it was invented for mostly political reasons. It’s not like other holidays where the government recognized a celebration already taking place as worthy of a holiday.
In some states school doesn’t start until after Labor Day, which is a mixed blessing for students. They don’t have to go to school in the middle of summer, but they don’t get a day off for Labor Day because they aren’t in school yet. But you probably wouldn’t find too many students who would make that trade – starting school early so they would get a one-day holiday.
Growing up, Labor Day was always the day that the pool closed for the summer. I remember one year when my sister, who was a student at Page had gone swimming across the street at Sherwood Swim and Racquet Club during lunch the first week of school, and got in trouble for going to class with wet hair.
The teacher couldn’t really figure out what rule she had violated, but was certain there was some regulation that said you couldn’t go swimming at lunch, or at the very least that students could not come to his class with wet hair.
As an adult I do look forward to Labor Day because it is also the end of the summer season at the beach, which means the rental rates go down. The weather is still warm enough to enjoy the ocean (as long as a hurricane is not on its way), the beaches are much less crowded and, at some beaches, it means that my four-legged companion is allowed to romp in the sand.
But I also have to admit some personal animosity toward Labor Day because, growing up, Labor Day was always the first Monday in September while Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of summer, was May 30. I blame the success of Labor Day as a long weekend with the decision to change Memorial Day from the perfectly acceptable May 30 date to the final Monday in May so it could match Labor Day.
May 30 happens to be my birthday, and I liked the fact that it was always a holiday. Now it’s a holiday only one out of seven years or so, and I’m sure it’s Labor Day’s fault.
If they ever change Independence Day to the first Monday in July, I hope the whole country will protest along with me.