What’s the Meaning of Labor Day?


I originally wrote this post about Labor Day back in 2014…when my girls looked so much younger…and I thought it was worth a re-post this year.

To be honest, it wasn’t until recently that I really understood the meaning of Labor Day…I’ve always just thought of it as part of a 3-day weekend and the marker to the end of summer. And actually, I would often have to pause to really remember if it marked the end or the beginning of summer…knowing that Memorial Day was at the other end.

Regardless, curiosity and a bit of guilt pushed me through my lazy understanding of Labor Day and got me to do some research and further consideration of a day that certainly meant more to others in the past than it did for me today.

Here’s what I learned…

    • In a nutshell, Labor Day is the “celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers” (Wikipedia). Basically, it’s a day when we should pause to appreciate the efforts of the “American worker”…on whose back our country was built and to whom we have much to thank for the economic, social, political, and educational advantages we enjoy today.
    • The Meaning of Labor Day - Redeem Your Ground | RYGblog.comAlthough Labor Day had already been celebrated by a number of states for several years previously, the 1st Monday of September became a national holiday in 1894.
    • There’s some debate as to whom founded Labor Day…either Peter McGuire or Matthew Maguire (no relation), but both were leaders in their respective labor unions.
    • Oh…and you’re not supposed to wear white pants or seersuckers after Labor Day.  Dadgummit!

So, as a daddy of two young girls, what should I get out of this…how should I redeem the intent and value of Labor Day for my family and me?

    • If Labor Day meant very little to me as a 40-something year old guy who has been in the workforce for 20+ years, I’m certain it means absolutely zippo to my girls.

The Meaning of Labor Day - Redeem Your Ground | RYGblog.com

    • I do need to appreciate that “labor” looks different today than it did back when Labor Day was established. And while labor isn’t as physical today for the majority of people, that doesn’t mean that we don’t work as hard as they did in the past.
    • However, I feel that with all the advances in technology and the advent of social media…where you can make a living and have “friends” all while staying inside and hardly moving a muscle…it’s critical that Britt and I teach our girls the value of working hard physically…pushing themselves through their blood, sweat, and tears:
        • Having them work on a project that they can touch & feel…seeing it through from the beginning to end, will create in them a sense of accomplishment and allow them to take pride in their work…what they’ve done…what they’ve built.
        • This and placing a premium on productivity will go a long way in combatting the passivity and sense of entitlement a number of younger folks appear to suffer from in today’s culture.
        • Helping them appreciate those who do work hard physically for a living…especially if they end up working in an industry that doesn’t require that, will make them more gracious, appreciative, and understanding members of the workforce.
        • Working with your hands often requires working with others…so presenting our girls with these types of opportunities will help them work on teams, appreciate what others bring to the table, and help develop their general interpersonal skills.
        • And not to mention, quite a few studies have shown that breathing fresh air and getting your blood flowing is a really good thing.

The Meaning of Labor Day - Redeem Your Ground | RYGblog.com

So this Labor Day weekend…in the midst of all the picnics, football games, barbecues, and end-of-summer-pool-parties, let me challenge you to consider and appreciate those men and women who worked so hard to afford us the blessed lives we lead today.

And if you’re a parent…let me challenge you further to try to think of ways you could help your kids get their hands dirty and work hard towards something…so that they too might be able to appreciate Labor Day now and in the future.  This will require a bit more intentionality, as well as doing whatever you need to to get everyone to put down their devices.

But if you do, I’d venture to say that you’ll be making it more likely that they will be more productive, more responsible, and more engaged in whatever lives they lead once they are on their own. And as a parent, there are few things that are better than that.

Take Care & Happy Labor Day!
Doug initial

If you're not already subscribed to RYG and want to get periodic updates, links to new posts & other ground redeeming info ... just enter your email address below. Easy as that!


  1. James Garrett on August 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Doug, Thank you for the historical account of Labor Day. Being British, and more recently having duel citizenship, I naturally didn’t grow up with such holidays as Memorial Day or Labor Day etc. I find it interesting though that despite Americans inability to understand the pleasures and need of having more than a few days off at one time, unlike your distant cousins across the pond who each year embark on their 2-3 week summer holidays, no other country has more “Days” through out the year as the US. That said after over 30 years of being a resident of this fine country I have never really taken the time to better understand what they all mean with perhaps the exception of Thanksgiving which interestingly seems to be less understood by many of home grown Americans who have many times asked me if we have Thanksgiving in the UK at which I have to point out that we in fact didn’t have any Indians or Pilgrims for that matter.

    We do, in the UK, share similarities with your “bank holidays” as we call them but the closest thing I can come to Labor Day is what we call Harvest Day which has it’s origins way back when farming was everything and it ushered in the end of summer as the fields were harvested and it was a moment to remember and give thanks for the hopefully bountiful harvest. As a child though this was neither a holiday or a day off school but was a time that our parents gave us canned goods to bring to school that were then given to those in need.

    I can honestly say that in all my years in the US I have actually worked more Labor Days than I haven’t and will indeed be working tomorrow so I guess for me it really is a “Labor” Day.

    I’ll look forward to your blog on Thanksgiving! James

    • Doug Scott on September 1, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Thanks James for your comment on the Labor Day post…as well as giving us not only your perspective on Labor Day, but also a bit of insight into similar UK holidays. Recently I’ve just found it interesting to better understand these days we have during the year. Anyway, I hope you have a nice Labor Day…laboring away. Take care, D.

  2. Marc Lamson on September 1, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Thanks – I had the same question this weekend from my boys and gave the same lame, “labor movement” answer. Good to read this. Time to get granular: Lee and Luke – do you know what it takes to make the road you drive on to get to the amusement park you love and how some welder was 200ft in the air on a strap to build your favorite roller coaster? Let’s stop, appreciate and do some labor today… And I’ll say thanks to the guys that make favorite beer….

    • Doug Scott on September 1, 2014 at 8:31 am

      Awesome…love it. I’m going to do the same w my girls. Hope all the Lamsons have a great Labor Day…and that in addition to the roller coaster riding that they get some time on or in the water as well. Great hearing from you. Take care, D.

  3. David Sides on September 4, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Great post! Thanks for sharing this, my friend. Happy Labor Day to you and your family.

    • Doug Scott on September 4, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Thanks David and same to you my friend! Take care, DWS

Leave a Comment