What the Heck is Labor Day? And Why I Don’t Celebrate It

If you’re like me and grew up as a homeschooler with the misfortune of being in a family that schools pretty much all year around, you don’t really get holidays off school. So things like Labor Day and Memorial Day are just another day of the year.

Or they’re worse than other day of the year. Add the stress of having to keep your parents from fighting with each other all day to that equation. Or having to deal with the aftermath if they do.

Needless to say, Labor Day wasn’t important to me growing up.

The other day, I had a thought, what the heck is Labor Day about anyway? So I did some research.

Labor Day was enacted on June 28, 1894, by Congress as a federal holiday and was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland. Some states had already passed a state bill making it a holiday though. The first Labor Day celebrated was on September 5, 1882, in New York City. This celebration was in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union.

The intent of the holiday was to glorify the worker and praise his efforts. Through the worker, America has achieved economic power and strength. The laborer has worked hard to achieve these results. Seems fitting that he should be celebrated at least once a year for the back breaking effort he gives. At least he gets something out of it.

I have an issue with Labor Day. Granted, I’m young and still learning my own viewpoints, but my research brought up some interesting thoughts.

Why celebrate labor? In the basest point of view, labor is a virtue, something that should be praised and instilled in every person. It is good for man to be industrious with the gifts God has given him, creating new and wondrous inventions. Hence the reason why we Catholics have the feast of St. Joseph the Worker celebrated on May 1st.

Now there is a theory of labor I can get behind. St. Joseph worked hard, there is no denying that. Why was he working though? To empower a state? To build wealth? To better his life? No, he didn’t work for any of those reasons. So why did he labor? There are three main reasons he spent his life in diligent labor. To glorify God, instill virtue in himself, and provide for his family.

That is what I believe labor should revolve around. Now that doesn’t mean I’m not going to work hard to build wealth and God willing, maybe I will be rich one day, but that isn’t a good enough reason to celebrate labor. Labor should revolve on the personal reason of bettering character, not material wealth. Man should labor to provide for himself and his family, not build wealth or better the economic wealth of his country.

One of my biggest issues with Labor Day though, is the fact that is smacks of socialism and American Calvinism. And with socialism, communism is not far behind.

In Soviet Russia…

The greatest resource of communist countries is the worker. People are no longer considered people, just objects that can be used and then discarded. Once we start to praise what people can do for their countries or for their work, we lose sight of the individuality of the person; the dignity and divinity.

Which honestly reminds me of this video:

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day is a day that celebrates the vital ‘force’ of labor and how it has bettered the country. Essentially, we should celebrate the worker because he has brought the U.S. to a place of power in the world, not, lets celebrate the worker because he diligently seeks to improve his life and provide for his family. When did America lose it’s mantra of “Come to the New World to build a better life”? Now it’s “Come to the New World so we can use you to build a world power”.

“Come to the New World so we can use you to build a world power.”

So what do I mean by Labor Day embodying American Calvinism? Among the tenants of being predestined by God, Calvinists believed that being wealthy or materially blessed by God was a sign of predestination. This belief transferred to the America and lo and behold, we have the workaholics.

Outside of the U.K. and some of the Germanic and Scandinavian countries, most of Europe and South America, where Catholic culture was better preserved, Do. Not. Believe. In. Workaholism. A favored expression in Mexico is manana, meaning, tomorrow. Lets do it tomorrow.

These countries are not caught up in the frenzy for wealth and the endless work it takes to get there. They take things slower and easier. Granted, this may mean their economies are not the stablest, but it does mean they have more time for family and their communities. This slower form of work allows them to spend time actually living.

So what’s my point? Labor is good. Labor should be celebrated and respected, and those who work hard should be rewarded. My point is that labor should not be worshiped or glorified. When God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He warned Adam that he would be subject to toiling and working the land. The need to work is not a blessing, but rather a curse.

A curse where we adults must constantly juggle work and our own lives just to get by. Oftentimes, we must put work before the people and things that really matter to us. Families and relationships often come into the firing lane and get torn apart because going above and beyond for the sake of work is ingrained so deeply in us.

For once, maybe we should put aside our love of work and materially bettering our lives and choose manana. Lets do it tomorrow so we can enjoy today. And lets give the common worker more than one day a year for which he can set work aside and truly celebrate life and all God has given him.

Let me end with a paragraph from the U.S. Department of Labor’s article on the history of Labor Day.

“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.”

U.S. Department of Labor – The History of Labor Day – paragraph 10

Please Note: I am not an expert on anything that I have said. This is all hastily put together personal viewpoints and philosophical reasoning. With time and more research, I may come to change my mind. Neither is this an attack on any people or groups of people. This is merely an exposition on my own thoughts and feelings and the attempt to bring up some concerns that many may have not considered.

Check out this article by The Imaginative Conservative if you’re interested in reading a well thought out argument for the holiday. https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/09/why-work-matters-david-deavel.html

That being said, I am planning on enjoying my day off before I have to return to the toil of my 8 to 4:30 job, even if I don’t agree with the reason for the holiday. How are you planning on spending the day, dear readers?

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