“Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live—that productive work is the process by which man controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit man’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth into the image of one’s values—that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind…--that your work is yours to choose, that your choice is as wide as your mind…” – Ayn Rand, “Galt’s Speech”
Before the industrial era of capitalism, social celebrations were an escape from work. In the 19th century, workers in Europe took the traditional first day of summer, May 1, for themselves. But in America everything is new and labor unions in New York City took the first Monday in September for their celebration in 1883.
President Grover Cleveland declared the first national Labor Day holiday in 1887. Apparently, he acted in reaction to the Europeans and communists, and in fear of May Day, but the impetus came from the labor unions of New York City. Furthermore in those four years, 30 states, starting with Oregon, already recognized the day. Labor Day was a spontaneous American celebration in honor of productive labor, not class war. After all, in America, workers could become capitalists.
Typically the American Labor Day is a family event, the last weekend of the summer for swimming, picnicking, or vacationing. Just as Thanksgiving is for celebrating our productivity with a bountiful family meal, Labor Day is our enjoyment of the leisure we bought with our productive labor. And it is a day, not of sloth and idleness, a surcease from drudgery, but a day of activities, of plans carried out. It is a bit ironic that after the busy holiday we find actual paid employment a welcome relief.