Origins of Labour Day

Labour Day (or Labor Day in the USA) is a national holiday that has come to signify the end of summer and for many young people the return to school. However, after hearing some people discuss the holiday I thought I’d look into the true origins of the holiday.

Labour Day Parade_Street Cleaning Department 1904 COV-S632-: CVA 789-13
Labour Day Parade_Street Cleaning Department 1904
COV-S632-: CVA 789-13

In Canada and the US, the holiday began, as one can imagine from the name, as a Labour movement. In the early days of the trade unions in the 1870’s, demonstrations and marches seeking standardised work weeks and against unfair management practices became annual events often at varying times of the year in different areas.  September came to be significant (vs the May Day/International Workers Day holiday in other parts of the world) due to a major demonstration on Ottawa that prompted then Prime Minister Sir John A MacDonald to repeal antiquated anti-union laws.  In 1894, Prime Minister John Thompson solidified the date by making the first monday in September a national holiday.  In the US, September was chosen for fear of commemorating a bloody bombing that occurred during a May Day protest years earlier.

BC Lions Football

The unions began a traditions of picnics and parades to celebrate the workers.  While many of the parades & labour demonstrations may be gone; picnics and celebrations to wrap up the end of summer with family live on in many communities.  New traditions of summer fairs, barbeques, sports (especially Football), and retail sales have taken hold throughout the countries.

How ever you chose to celebrate your Labour / Labor Day I hope it’s a fun and happy one!

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