Relaxing on a beach at Lake Lanier last year on Labor Day, aka the “last day of summer.”  BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Photo: Branden Camp
Photo: Branden Camp

Why is Labor Day in September, and why is it such a big deal?

Labor Day is this Monday. Frankly, it couldn’t come along at a better time.

After all, it’s been two long months since many of us were forced to forego a three-day holiday weekend when the Fourth of July had the temerity to land -- shudder!-- on a Wednesday.

Meanwhile, this whole flip-flops and humidity hair thing is getting old.

Just as Memorial Day has come to be thought of as the “beginning” of summer, Labor Day generally is considered its official unofficial end. But just try telling that to Georgia’s kids, who’ve already been back in school for weeks.

So why is Labor Day always in September?  And why does this somewhat taken-for-granted holiday matter so much for America?

(Hint: It has nothing to do with car or mattress sales).

Here are the seven things you really need to know about Labor Day:

But the event that’s generally considered the tipping point happened on Sept. 5, 1882. That’s when New York’s Central Labor Union organized tens of thousands of workers to come together for a self-described “monster labor festival” that began with a parade and proceeded on to a park for a picnic, speeches and -- hey, this is America! -- fireworks.

   Like Labor Day? Maybe you have a tuba player from New Jersey to thank. The success of that first event was hardly assured. Police, expecting a riot, showed up in force on the morning of the parade; meanwhile, no one knew how many workers -- most of whom would have to forfeit a day’s pay to be there -- would show up to march. Those who did reportedly remained rooted in place at first because there was no music for them to march to. While some urged cancelling the whole thing,  organizers suddenly received word that “two hundred marchers from the Jewelers Union of Newark Two had just crossed (over on) the ferry,” an official history recounts on the U.S. Department of Labor’s web site. “And they had a band!” Some 10,000 to 20,000 people wound up marching that year, the DOL says.

Yep, it's legal. South Dakota Sen. James Henderson Kyle introduced legislation in August 1893 to make "the day named as Labor's Holiday" an annual federal holiday. Congress passed it the following June.
Unlike Labor Day, which always falls on the first Monday in September, the AJC Peachtree Road Race always takes place on July 4th -- no matter what day of the week it is.  CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Photo: Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Best things to do Labor Day weekend in Atlanta Join book lovers in downtown Decatur for the AJC Decatur Book Festival. Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Give back and meet some celebrities during LudaDay Weekend. Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Show your pride at one of the largest Black Gay Pride events in the U.S. during Atlanta Black Pride Weekend. Aug. 29-Sept. 4. Get in college football mode during the Chick-fil-A College Football Kickoff games. Sept. 1 and Sept. 4. Go up, up and away at the nostalgic Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festi
In many part of the country, Labor Day comes before back-to-school time. Not so in Georgia, where students returned weeks ago, including at Mill Creek Middle School. Cherokee County Schools
Photo: For the AJC

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