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The Origin of Labour Day

May Day Around the World

Spring rites have been celebrated around the world for over 2000 years, and most countries have blended this May time of rebirth and dancing around the Maypole with a time to consider workers’ rights.
Worldwide, over 160 countries celebrate Labor Day, primarily on May 1, designated as International Worker’s Day. The goal has always been to improve workers’ conditions, often via parades and demonstrations, touching on many issues.

First Monday in September in North America

In the US and Canada, people in the late 19th century also wanted to promote working-class solidarity and belonging, in a world of rapid industrialization. Workers held rallies, parades, picnics, and other celebrations. Following a large labour convention in New York in 1882, the American Federation of Labor and the Knights of Labor promoted the first Monday in September as a day of workers’ celebrations. The Canadian chapters of these organizations quickly followed suit. These organizations then pressured governments to declare this day a statutory holiday. Thus, in 1894, due to pressure campaigns and lobbying, a law declaring this holiday was passed in the Canadian Senate and was signed into law during the Prime Ministership of John Thompson on July 23 , following the passage of a similar law by the US Congress, ratified by President Grover Cleveland, on June 28.

However, Canada and the US made the decision to celebrate Labor Day in September rather than May, to separate the holiday from remembrance of the Chicago Haymarket riots of May 4, 1886, when a rally in support of striking workers was broken up by the police.

These days. fewer people participate in Labour Day celebrations, but this holiday is looked forward to and enjoyed by Canadian and Americans alike. It also marks the official end of summer in North America and the beginning of the school year. Clearly different from the May Day season, but a new and meaningful time.

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