Everyone loves long weekends. In between starting your working life and retiring at the end, there are many long weekends to help break up the working year. Here in America, we can count on Christmas, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Labor Day to hopefully guarantee not having to work. There are a number of other holidays such as Presidents Day, Columbus Day, and MLK Day when we may also have a day off work. If you have a state or federal job, then you have hit the jackpot when it comes to three-day weekends.
Here’s how long holiday weekends got started:
Independence Day or July 4th has been celebrated since the United States became an official nation. As an original founding father, John Adam wrote to his wife Abigail, this would be a day that “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary festival and that the celebration should include pomp and parade, sports, games, bells, bonfires, guns, and illuminations from one side of this Continent to the other.”
The only issue was that John Adams wanted our Independence Day to be July 2nd. That was the date when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. They did not actually sign the document until two days later. In fact, John Adams turned down celebration invitations for July 4th out of protest. Ironically, he died on the same day as Thomas Jefferson, July 4th, 1826…
Labor Day is a three-day weekend that was originally formed from anger. Towards the end of the 1800s, the average worker worked 12 hours a day. Children were employed from as young as five in sweatshops. In an attempt to improve pay and work conditions, ten thousand workers set off from work on September 5, 1882, and marched from the City Hall to Union Square in New York City.
This parade was the first official Labor Day. Every year on the first Monday of September, workers continued to take time off. Then a strike against the Pullman Palace Railroad Company in 1894 resulted in violent riots and the death of many workers. Labor Day became an official holiday and workers could have the day off but still get paid. Today, Labor Day signifies that it’s time to go back to school and that summer is over.
From the beginning, Memorial Day has been about honoring our active duty, retired veterans, and fallen troops. What you may not be aware of is that the first fallen troops to receive this day of remembrance were the soldiers of the Civil War. That war caused more American casualties than any other war in our history. Every town in the country was affected.
Just after the war, many towns would hold days of remembrance in springtime. This changed into Decoration Day where people would spend time at the cemeteries looking after the final resting place for the veterans. After World War 1, the day was changed into honoring all fallen service personnel.
For many years, the celebration for Memorial Day was held on May 30th regardless of the day of the week that was. It wasn’t until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act came into effect in 1971 and designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day.