Every year, Labor Day seems to arrive at just the right time. It’s been a long summer, you’ve worked hard, fatigue and ennui are weighing you down . . . and suddenly a glorious three-day weekend arrives that allows you to sleep in, spend some time with the family, and revel in a little bit more of summer before cooler autumn comes to town.
This year is no different. It’s been a really busy summer, with lots of time on the road. From my perspective, at least, the timing of Labor Day could not have been better.
I’ve written before about the origins of Labor Day — which is one of the oldest federal holidays, next to Thanksgiving — but it almost wasn’t scheduled for the first Monday in September. The alternative date was May 1, also known as International Workers’ Day. President Grover Cleveland decided, however, that having a holiday on that date might encourage labor group protests and general anarchist and socialist rabble-rousing, so the September date was selected instead.
If President Cleveland consciously selected the September date because he wanted to discourage rioting and mass labor marches, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. For decades, most Americans have marked Labor Day not with marches and protests, but with grilling out, getting in those last precious moments of pool time, and fortifying themselves against the coming colder weather with a few frosty adult beverages.
Since 1971, when Memorial Day became a federal holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day and Labor Day have bookended the summer months, giving us those wonderful three-day weekends to really set the warm outdoor months apart from the rest of the year. When you think about it, it was pretty good decision-making by our elected representatives. This Labor Day, as I enjoy my frosty adult beverage, I’ll take a swig in honor of President Cleveland and his impeccable sense of holiday timing.