A Big Day in Canada, USA

An observance dating back to the late 19th century is celebrated on the first Monday in September in both the United States and Canada. Labor Day in the USA, Labour Day in Canada.

In the States, the day honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country. It is considered the unofficial end of summer in the United States and it is recognized as a federal holiday.

Canada’s Labour Day is a celebration of Canadian workers’ social and economic achievements. Until 1892, unions were illegal in Canada’s archaic British law system, making it incredibly difficult for workers to strike and demand better working conditions. The foundation for Labour Day were laid in March of 1872 when the Toronto Typographical Union demanded a 9-hour work day. When its demands weren’t met, the employees went on strike and were subsequently arrested according to the law.

As trade union and labor movements grew in the States in the late 19th century, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, 30 states in the United States officially celebrated Labor Day.

More than 80 countries celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1 – the ancient European holiday of May Day – and several countries have chosen their own dates for Labour Day.

May Day emerged in the States in 1886 as an alternative holiday for the celebration of labor, later becoming known as International Workers’ Day. The date had its origins at the 1885 convention of the American Federation of Labor, which passed a resolution calling for adoption of the eight-hour day effective May 1, 1886.

While negotiation was envisioned for achievement of the shortened work day, use of the strike to enforce this demand was recognized, with May 1 advocated as a date for coordinated strike action. The proximity of the date to the bloody Haymarket Riot of May 4, 1886, further accentuated May First’s radical reputation.

There was disagreement among labor unions at this time about when a holiday celebrating workers should be, with some advocating for continued emphasis of the September march-and-picnic date while others sought the designation of the more politically-charged date of May 1.

Conservative Democratic President Grover Cleveland was one of those concerned that a labor holiday on May 1 would tend to become a commemoration of the Haymarket affair and would strengthen socialist and anarchist movements that backed the May 1 commemoration around the globe. In 1887, he publicly supported the September Labor Day holiday as a less inflammatory alternative. The date was formally adopted as a United States federal holiday in 1894.

In big cities, people try to go outside and enjoy beaches and barbecues over the Labor Day Weekend. There are also numerous events and activities organized in the cities. For example, New York offers Labor Day Carnival, fireworks over Coney Island, happy hours in restaurants, 12-hour dance parties and many other activities. In Washington, one popular event is the Labor Day Concert at the U.S. Capitol featuring the National Symphony Orchestra with free attendance.

On April 18, 1872, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald introduced the Trade Union Act, which legalized and protected unions in Canada. Since then, Labour Day has served as a yearly celebration of the achievements made to improving working conditions and employment benefits for all Canadians.

In both countries, Labor Day weekend marks the start of the fall football season, both at the professional and college levels. There are parades and picnics across both lands. In Canada, there are many fireworks displays, including those put on by many individuals who buy their own fireworks.

Enjoy the end of summer and have a great Labor, or Labour, Day!

Auld Lang Syne and Other New Year’s Customs

Out with the old and in with the new as they say! With the New Year upon us, here’s a look at some of the customs surrounding the last day of the year.

The Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop is a popular event that has been happening annually in New York City ever since 1907. The ball begins its descend down a specially designed flagpole in 60 seconds at 11:59 pm as people join their voices to count down. The ball can display more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns, creating a spectacular light show on top of the One Times Square skyscraper.

“Auld Lang Syne,” which means “times gone by” is a traditional standby that is sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788 and is based on a folk song.

In some cities of Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico, there is a tradition of making a male doll that is stuffed with memories from the past year, all dressed with the clothes of the outgoing year and is called Mr. Old Year. At midnight, the doll is set on fire symbolizing erasing of the bad memories.

SydneyFireworksLas Vegas, Nevada, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and New York City are among the top places to celebrate New Year’s Eve. One of the biggest light shows to call in the New Year takes place in Sydney, Australia, where more than 80,000 fireworks are set off from Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Mexicans are known to eat 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve. They pop one each at the stroke of midnight, which symbolizes the nature of the months ahead. One needs to watch out in the month the grape tastes bitter! Pomegranates are eaten for prosperity while figs are for fertility.

In many South American countries, people are known to eat cabbage, collards, kale and chard on New Year’s Eve. It is believed that since the green veggies look like money, eating them will bring economic success in the coming year.

In Japan, there is a Buddhist tradition of ringing the temple bell 108 times on New Year’s Eve. It signifies the number of evil desires we suffer from on Earth and the ringing of the bell symbolizes expelling of those sins from the past year. Many temples conduct this ceremony and Watch-Night Bell in Tokyo is one of the popular gathering spots.

In the annual Hogmany celebrations of Scotland, men swing blazing fireballs over their heads as they parade through the streets. The age old tradition is believed to bring a pure and sun-filled year.

According to “Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia,” the first person you encounter in the New Year could set the tone for the whole year ahead. “Kiss someone at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and you will have a year of luck in love,” writes Joanne Wannan in her book “Kisstory: A Sweet and Sexy Look at the History of Kissing.”

Noisemaking and fireworks have been an integral part of New Year’s Eve celebrations since ancient times as it’s believed they dispel evil spirits and bring good luck.

Greeks in 600 B.C. began following a tradition of using a baby to signify the upcoming year. In order to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, people paraded a baby in a basket, representing annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility.