Who doesn’t enjoy the first Monday in September off every year? Whether you’re planning on going camping with family or you are hosting a potluck dinner, you’ll probably be happy to miss a day of work on Labor Day. Other than the fact that is signifies the end of summer and that it is a federal holiday, many people don’t know what Labor Day is and why we celebrate it. After reading this quick history, next time, when someone mentions the holiday you’ll be able to offer some historical context.


The Beginnings of Labor Day


Labor Day is essentially a day to honor laborers in America. The holiday has its roots in the Industrial Revolution. Many workers were asked to work longer hours and wages were cut. Although America allowed unions, Canada did not. In 1877, thousands of upset Canadian auto workers marched to Prime Minister John McDonald’s home and demanded unions to be legalized. Their stance hit a nerve and later unions became legalized. In support of the march of 1877, every year Canada celebrated by having a parade and other gatherings. It just so happened that an American, John J. McGuire, was invited to celebrate alongside the Canadians. A union worker himself, McGuire came back to New York and proposed that there be a worker’s parade to the American Central Labor Union. Everyone agreed that it was a great idea. Later, another man by the name of Matthew McQuire, also proposed the same idea. Many people confuse the two and it wasn’t for certain for a few years who proposed it first. The very first Labor Day was held on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. This Labor Day allowed thousands of workers to unite and rally for an eight hour work day. This event included a march from City Hall to the Union Square Reservoir Park in New York. Two years later the day of the celebration was moved to Monday, which we now observe today. Oregon was the first to legalize the holiday in 1887. Other states followed suit, but not all recognized it as a federal holiday until 1894.


A Federal Holiday Born Out of Tragedy


Unfortunately Labor Day was born out of a tragedy. In 1894 railway workers were striking to protest wage cuts. President Grover Cleveland, in a haste, sent 12,000 federal troops to break up the strike in Illinois. Violence erupted and in the end two railway workers were killed. As a way to make up for his wrongdoing and to get better press, Cleveland decided to make Labor Day a federal holiday. This is why we get the day off of work every year.


Host A Celebratory Block Party For Labor Day!


Now the year is 2016 and there are parades to attend but very rarely do people throw a party for Labor Day honoring workers. Instead of focusing on the holiday, why not throw a block party that brings your neighbors together while adding twists that give a nod back to the 1890s? To begin, send out invitations to your neighbors and others who you would like to join. Think through creative and progressive food options, activity options, and decorations. Since it’s a block party, feel free to ask others to participate and bring different items to your home to share. Focus on offering drinks, food options, and a movie screening in your backyard to make the most of Summer!


Block Party Food


Food can be one of the most expensive and stressful aspects of hosting a party. This Labor Day, forget about heating up a skillet. Instead, utilize your local food trucks. Food trucks are trucks that make different types of foods and that travel all around. Usually, these “restaurants” don’t have store fronts and are only made up of a truck on the move. If you plan ahead, you can invite numerous different food trucks to your block party. Don’t worry about purchasing food for your guests. Instead, let everyone know in their invitation that drinks will be provided but that they should bring money to enjoy the truck offerings. Get a number of different types of food trucks. Think Asian-fusion, Mexican, and even a dessert truck! Some favorites include a snowcone truck or a truck that creates wood fired pizzas to order! Sometimes you can also work out a deal with the food truck to have them provide food for your party for a specific amount of time for a price. This is a good option if you’d like to pay for the food.


Provide Labor Day Libations


Since you’re asking your neighbors to buy their food (and support local businesses) on Labor Day, be gracious and provide lots of libations. A fun nod back to the history of Labor Day would be providing old school cocktails. Set a table up outside or inside and allow guests to customize drinks such as a Jack Rose and Gin Rickey. Pisco Punch is a drink that would’ve been popular when Labor Day was being put into motion. This drink was invented by Duncan Nicol. The Daily Meal provides an excellent recipe for a twist on the original. Pineapple Pisco Punch is made with lemon juice, pineapple juice, simple syrup, Tazo chai concentrate, orange bitters, and pineapple pisco. By making this cocktail, your guests will feel as if they went back in time a hundred years.


Screen a Throwback Movie


As part of the Labor Day Block Party, why not screen a movie outside for your guests? Invite everyone to bring their favorite lawn chairs or blankets and pillows. You can rent or purchase a large backyard screen to show movies on. To make the most of the Labor Day theme without going over-the-top, think of movies that are period pieces of the time. IMDb lists a few that would fall into the timeframe when Canada made union’s legal and the first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated. Some of those movies include Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and Anne of Green Gables.


Fun Favors


Send each guest away with a fun favor that represents Labor Day. This can be red, white, and blue to remember the workers of America. Everyone loves something edible, so why not send them home with a patriotic themed cookie? See if your local bakery can create a custom order for you to give all of your guests. Perhaps have the American flag on the cookies or a design utilizing the country’s colors. This simple thank you will have your guests feeling joyful and will give them a sweet treat to remember you by later.




Pineapple Pisco Punch, The Daily Meal

IMDb Period Movies

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