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Labour Day Lament

Welcome to the unofficial New Year! Yup, I know January 1st is months away, but let’s face it, the ‘real’ New Year is the day AFTER Labour Day. It’s when we shake off summer brain, feel a shiver in the weather, and jump into a fuller schedule of activities. September is the ‘new’ January!

Of course, it comes with a bit of a brain teaser: What is Labour Day all about?

First, yes, I am writing ‘labour’ with a ‘u’, because English English uses that extra vowel to prove some sort of point – I’m not sure what exactly? Plus, who can’t use an extra ‘u’ in their world! If it irks you, you may want to seek counselling for ‘u-itis.’

Second, according to the world of Wiki, Labour Day is the equivalent of International Workers’ Day held on May 1st in many parts of the world. So instead of May, the USA, Canada and some other countries celebrate in September. If you’re in Australia, your workers (which if you haven’t already sussed is MOST of us!) celebrate differently in each state/territory – how confusing is that! But OK, seems like a fair trade.


Third, as a Canadian I proudly smile at the day…after all its roots rest here! It’s all the other countries who jumped on board…and why not they all have workers who deserve to be honoured.

Only here’s where I get lost in holiday-land…Labour Day supposedly “celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.” Again, my use of ‘supposedly’ is intentional. I’m not sure where you live or travel, but I have NEVER EVER witnessed a workers celebration in North America on Labour Day. How about you?

Unlike the May 1st union protests and student marches experienced in other parts of the globe, which celebrate, and in tighter times, even stand up for the rights of workers (a.k.a. MOST OF US), we opt for a day off to party. So, here’s a statutory holiday aimed “to celebrate the achievements of workers,” but really it’s a fabulous reason to fire up the BBQ, grab a 6-pack (of whatever you glug), and dive into some quality R & R. The irony is hilarious – our achievements are marked with a brew and a burger!

I’m not actually complaining, more shaking my head. Initially, Labour Day involved a street parade to exhibit “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for the workers and their families. Speeches by leaders or employers gave way to a day of rest and parties, including picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, outdoor activities, sports, and public art events. Maybe what people REALLY want, yes?

Fourth, better yet how about spending your day celebrating YOU by shopping? With all those workers on holiday, what better day for stores to hold sales!? Taking advantage of the opportunity results in “one of the largest sale dates of the year, second only to the Christmas season’s Black Friday” in the USA. Only this means that workers in retail jobs actually work on Labour Day, and often longer hours that day! Probably reflects how retail workers are rarely in unions!?

Fifth, my guess is that somewhere in the mix school pays the biggest role in our Un-Labour Day, because it’s typically viewed as the end of the summer vacation season. With most schools opening for the year the day after Labor Day, families with school-age children take it as the last chance to chill-ax before school begins. Thing is that once you are a school-age child (again MOST of us) with years of living this calendar cycle, we sort of continue to mark Labour Day as the end of summer. It becomes our ‘new year.’

My proposal: What rocking awesome things can you do to celebrate you (most likely a worker!) between Labour Day and the first day of autumn? Imagine that Labour Day stretches to the true end of summer…how would you make the most of it? Now get out there and do it – you deserve more that one day with a brew and burger to honour YOU!

Happy unofficial New Year!

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