When I think of Labor Day weekend, I usually think of beach trips and barbecues in the backyard. Although these are great classic American traditions, many of us seem to have forgotten what the holiday is actually celebrating. Even as a kid, I would get excited about my day off from school and the fact that it meant there was a long weekend ahead. Thinking back, I never thought to question why this was. All I cared to think about was the fact that I was headed to our beach house in Ocean City!
Nowadays, I enjoy learning about why different holidays exist and the history behind them. Surprisingly enough, a lot of what I thought I knew about certain holidays are either inaccurate or simply myths. This got me thinking; why not use this as an opportunity to teach our children about the history of our country? I sure wish someone had done this for me as a kid!
Did you know that a carpenter named Peter McGuire came up with the idea for Labor Day? He spent over ten years fighting for workers rights and eventually, in 1882, he proposed the idea to dedicate a holiday to the social and economic achievements of workers. For a long time, workers were forced into very harsh conditions and were paid very little. They worked over ten hour days and even were forced to do so when they were sick. McGuire fought long and hard to change these conditions for himself and for others like him. In September of 1894, Americans celebrated the first Labor Day parade.
Whatever you may have planned for Labor Day this year set aside an hour or two to give a lesson on the history of the holiday. A great follow up activity for this is might be to set up a mock-assembly line. Before child labor laws were enforced, a lot of children worked in different factories as assembly line workers. Depending on your children’s ages and how many of them there are, you can have them assemble anything from PB & J sandwiches to different craft activities. I know using Legos for an assembly line activity has also proven very popular with the kids. I know Labor Day is something we all look forward to and it is the perfect opportunity to relax just one more time before the end of the summer. Just don’t forget to take some time to appreciate and honor the day. Have fun everyone!
Jenna Cates: Perfect Fit Placement Specialist