Labor Day is a federally-mandated holiday which takes place annually on the first Monday of September. The holiday was proposed in the mid-19th century as a way to celebrate the achievements of the American worker (similar to May Day, the workers' holiday celebrated in most other countries).
The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City in 1882, following the suggestion of New York labor leader Peter J. McGuire. According to the AFL-CIO, McGuire—the founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, who was also integral in the institution of the eight-hour work day—"introduced a resolution calling for workers to lead a 'festive parade through the streets of the city' on the first Monday of September. More than 30,000 marchers participated in the event."
It took a few years from the initial New York City labor parade for the idea to get traction. The state of New York did not make Labor Day an official holiday until 1888. The first state to pass a law making Labor Day a holiday was Oregon. The United States Congress made Labor Day an official holiday in 1894.
How Is Labor Day Celebrated Today?
The festive labor parades that were common at the outset of the Labor Day movement and through World War II are not very common during modern celebrations of Labor Day. To most Americans, the holidays signals the unofficial end of summer. Schools typically start their fall sessions following the Labor Day holiday. Government offices, banks, and most businesses close for the Labor Day holiday.
As such, Labor Day Weekend is a popular time for vacations in the United States. Beach vacations are particularly popular on Labor Day, as it's considered the last real weekend of summer. Many cities also use the three-day weekend to hold food or music festivals.