The spirit of Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday of September each year in the United States, is best described by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Labor Day often conjures up visions of parades, picnics, barbecues, athletic activities, traffic-clogged highways and last-minute shopping for school items, all of which signify the unofficial end of summer holidays and the beginning of the academic year for many college goers and school students. It also signals the beginning of many Fall sporting events, and is the mid-point of the US Open Tennis Championships in New York. In fashion, it signifies the end of wearing summer clothes (beach hats, whites and shorts) and sales abound as retailers all over the country try to take advantage of the holiday to unload their summer merchandise and make space for Fall fashions.
But there is a serious side to this day as well. Labor Day in the USA pays tribute to the accomplishments and achievements of American workers and became a Federal holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. Labor Day is also celebrated in Canada at the same time – the first Monday in September and popular activities there parallel the US.
In many other countries, Labor Day (also referred to as International Workers’ Day), occurs in Spring around May 1st. It is a celebration of laborers and the working class. It commemorates past labor struggles against workers’ rights violations, including lengthy workdays, poor working conditions and child labor. The Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886 is generally considered the origin of the International Workers Day. The labor demonstration in Chicago came to a violent ending with demonstrators, police officers and workers being killed, this being followed by significant legal proceedings and prosecutions.
In India, Labor Day was first celebrated on May 01 in Chennai in 1923 and its origin is credited to Malayapuram Singaravelu Chettiar who founded his own party, The Labor Kisan Party of Hindustan. On this day, working men and women participate in processions to defend their rights; other than processions, contests are organized for children to participate in and understand the bond of togetherness.