What is the Real Story Behind Labor Day?

What is Labor Day?  According to the United States Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. “

Labor Day Parade 1882.
This is an image of a Labor Day Parade in Union Square in New York City in 1882.

This last hurrah of summer is cherished by many for the long weekend it brings us, but the true meaning behind this holiday is often overlooked.  This year, take a moment to explain to your children the real reason we celebrate “Labor Day” and the interesting history behind it.

The first Labor Day holiday, better known then as the “working-men’s holiday”, was organized by the Central Labor Union of New York.  It was originally celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.  In 1894 Congress decided to make this holiday an official National holiday and designated the first Monday in September as “Labor Day”.   Originally, Labor Day celebrations consisted of union organized parades, displays of products and machines, large community picnics, and even labor rallies.

Original Labor Day celebrations were very family-oriented, and as such, there was usually good food, entertainment, and games for the whole family.  You can replicate that old-fashioned, family fun this weekend at your celebration.  The whole family can get involved, and best of all, there are no electronic devices required!

Here are some of the original Labor Day games that you can try during your Labor Day celebrations:

Classic Egg and Spoon Race
Children the world over enjoy a Classic Egg and Spoon Race.
  • Tug of War – Split your family and friends into two groups.  Grab a rope, mark a spot on the ground that corresponds to the middle of the rope, and TUG!
  • Potato Sack Race – Flour sacks, potato sacks, or pillow cases will work for this race.  It’s easy, just put on your sack and hop your way to the finish line.
  • Three-legged Race – Find a partner, tie your legs together, and run (or hobble) as fast as you can.  The duo that crosses the line first will be awarded the designation of the Fastest Group on Three Legs.
  • Egg Spoon Race – Split your group into two or more teams.  This is a relay style race, so the first member balances an egg on their spoon and hurries to the turning point and back.  That person carefully transfers the egg to the next racer in line who repeats the process.  The team to cross the finish line first with their egg intact wins.  (Or the team with the egg that survives the longest without breaking will win by default.)
  • Watermelon Eating Contest – This one doesn’t really require too much explanation, but it does require a lot of watermelons!
  • Seed-Spitting Contest – After all that watermelon has been eaten, you can make good use of the seeds by having a seed-spitting contest.  Have the contestants line up behind a barrier or line.  Each contestant spits a seed as far as they can. Have the crowd keep track of whose seed goes the farthest to declare your winner.

JM Cremps, the Adventure for Boys Store, is dedicated to bringing families together.  While Labor Day celebrations only last for the weekend, the memories your family makes will last a lifetime.  Rest assured, these old-fashioned picnic games are sure to bring on some memorable moments!


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