Why isn’t Labor Day in May? (And what bloody tragedy helped inspire the holiday?)

In more than 80 countries, on May 1, labor unions and working people take to the streets. The holiday is often referred to as International Workers’ Day or May Day.

The day marks the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, where police shot and killed several demonstrators who were fighting for the eight-hour workday. Over the next several years, people across the globe began demonstrating on May 1, and in many countries the day became an official holiday.

So why don’t we celebrate in May? Government officials feared instigating anger over the event at Haymarket Square. But politicians and others relaized that a holiday honoring workers was necessary. So, following the massive 1894 Pullman Strike legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was quickly ushered through Congress. From then, on Labor Day officially occurred on the first Monday in September.

(Is Labor Day the official end of summer? No? Well when is it? Click here.)

In the U.S., Labor Day is often celebrated with barbeques to mark the end of summer. Check out how hamburgers and hot dogs got their names.)

Now that you know about the history of Labor Day, do you still think it makes sense to have the holiday in September?


  1. cacklinq -  July 9, 2014 - 11:56 am

    I think it should be celebrated on May 1st to show unity with all those other countries that also celebrate it on May 1st. The Haymarket Affair was in Chicago, Illinois, USA. So why shouldn’t the US celebrate our fight for the eight-hour workday on a day that is actually RELATED to workers’ rights? It’s silly to celebrate it on September 1st, especially since the only reason was because the federal government didn’t want to incite anger towards the event. It was their fault in the first place for targeting the peaceful event and introducing gunfire.

    May 1st!!!

  2. Gabe is a fag -  September 3, 2013 - 12:17 pm


  3. Carl -  July 16, 2013 - 3:21 am

    I thought it had something to do with communists.

    • Jeff -  August 31, 2014 - 10:43 am

      Your thinking that is a testament to the amazing effectiveness of right-wing propaganda. Everything having to do with the rights of workers is associated with Communism, the former Soviet Union, and is therefore scary. I would hope that most of us understand that not to be the case, but the discourse has been steered very effectively in that direction. But I am here to protest against that rhetoric.

  4. Bharat Kumar -  April 29, 2013 - 3:24 am


    By any chance is there a list of countries who celebrate the Labour Day with the respective dates they celebrate it?

    Have been searching and could not find one. Can some one provide me with this list.

    Bharat Kumar.

  5. Humberto -  September 3, 2012 - 8:59 am

    LABOR DAY is LABOR DAY …!!! and it is celebrated in MANY countries around the world on May 1st … It doesn’t matter what day of the week it falls on … it is ALWAYS on May the 1st … U.S.A does NOT want to celebrate it on that day because the U.S.A. government does NOT want anybody realizing that many countries in the world celebrate IN PROTEST against U.S.A due to the massacre against people asking for human rights … Therefor the government tried to distance themselves from that SHAMEFUL memory changing the name for the celebration (only in U.S.A) to “MAY DAY” and since all those countries celebrate “labor day” they had to INVENT another day (far away from the original) to also “celebrate” labor day.

  6. [...] May Day Media Round-Up NOTE: With tens of thousands marching in New York and Oakland and cities throughout the U.S. to defend immigrant rights, protest the corporate capture of government, and bust the banksters for their criminal theft of livelihoods, yesterday, May 1, 2012, was without doubt one of the biggest shows of May Day street heat since the original workers’ May Day was turned into the state-sponsored Labor Day a century ago. [...]

  7. karl hatten sr -  September 11, 2011 - 9:52 am

    Graykat why not celebratelabor day three days down at GM?

  8. Drew -  September 9, 2011 - 1:14 pm

    Why don’t we just make a new holiday called Labor Memorial Day and celebrate that in May? It could honor all the workers everywhere who have ever lived.

  9. Adam -  September 27, 2010 - 6:58 am

    May Day, or Tanz in den Mai in German (literally; dance into May) is an old pre Christian pagan festival. It marks the end of the planting season which officially starts at Easter (also a pagan festival). It is a time when the sexual energy of the sun is encouraged to come down to the earth and copulate with the earth goddess in order to make a good harvest. It is also half way between the spring equinox and summer solstice and the exact opposite time of year to Halloween (which marked the end of harvest and the New Year). The dancing round the May pole by the local virgins was to entice the suns sexual energy to come down and be trapped in the earth, the May pole is a symbolic phallus.
    Most of our festivals have their origin in ancient farming methods.

  10. Citizen of a sovereign nation -  September 10, 2010 - 11:39 am

    According to this history (and any I have read), we (in america) started the whole concept. We can set whatever bloody day we want and to hell with some kind of internationalism. Why do countries have such issues with being the sovereign entities they should be?? May we continue to be unique and strong.

  11. AMY-LOU -  September 10, 2010 - 9:31 am

    That’s so sad i want to cry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No j/k i didn’t even read this blog i just got really bored and i want some chesse puffs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. LABOR DAY | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  September 8, 2010 - 9:01 am

    [...] “MAY DAY” might be for “worker’s rights” A Communist Oxymoron — “Labor Day” is for the Labor Unions and the MOBS that keep the score on — who should have the power and who should pay the dues. — “The future ain’t what it used to be “ — Never take a HIKE in white shoes.–>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

  13. Nat Jay -  September 8, 2010 - 8:29 am

    For a lot of us, it’s the time of year when school begins and we resume the routine of work-life (till December at least) following the end of summer.

  14. To J.D. from K.I. -  September 8, 2010 - 6:18 am

    method and practice. In America.

  15. notaglobalist -  September 7, 2010 - 6:17 am

    This is America. We should be leading the world not striving to copy it. The thought of changing our holidays to match the world’s for the sake of some sort of unity is ridiculous.

  16. Geraint -  September 6, 2010 - 6:14 pm

    I’m astonished that Dictionary.com has misspelt ‘barbecue’ as ‘barbeque’! The date of Labor Day may be different in the US, but I’m sure this word is spelt the same everywhere.

  17. From New Zealand -  September 6, 2010 - 6:06 pm

    Well here in little old NZ we do it differently from the rest of the would and for us it’s the last Monday in October and ours is to celebrate when this country got the 8 hour working day passed by our governmen and we call it ‘Labour Day’ and we don’t celebrate May day at all.

  18. rachel -  September 6, 2010 - 6:03 pm

    stop crying and enjoy the day off

  19. Hard Truth -  September 6, 2010 - 4:37 pm

    The day should more appropriately be called ‘Labor Union Day’ or even ‘Socialism Day’. It has nothing to do with workers anymore, and everything to do with politicians and labor union organizers.

  20. #1 Skillet fan -  September 6, 2010 - 3:04 pm

    I think that since we Americans have been celebrating Labor Day on the first Monday of September, we don’t have to change it. Labor Day in America has a unique history to it, so it’s kind of like changing the date for Thanksgiving.

  21. Evertha -  September 6, 2010 - 1:49 pm

    With all the Amercans out of workSEPTEMBER6, 2010is A day to remember.Unemployment is not to be celebrated but it can surely be A day forPRAYER and ATONEMENT. Any day is GOOD with PRAYERS of thanksgiving and praise.

  22. GrayKat -  September 6, 2010 - 1:12 pm

    Why not celebrate our workers twice? Aren’t they the ones who MADE America? Seems like a little historical awareness and honest recognition are in order.

  23. jamdung -  September 6, 2010 - 1:07 pm

    I’m from jamaica and we celebrated labour day on the 23rd of may observed on the monday not on the first so i guess we doing it different too!

  24. Sheri -  September 6, 2010 - 12:43 pm

    The first monday in September is kind of an odd time for a workers’ appreciation day. a lot of people don’t work in the summer and then go back to work at the end of august and then they get a whole day to do nothing because they’ve worked so hard and so long? May1st sounds like the better option. It’s almost vacation time. A three day weekend would be like a primer to get the feel good mood started.

  25. rubybenubi -  September 6, 2010 - 12:26 pm

    It might have made sense originally to follow the crowd and use May 1. Now, with Memorial Day in May and a history of celebrating Labor Day in September, I see no reason to change.

  26. Richard Comaish -  September 6, 2010 - 11:39 am

    May Day is May Day, and Labor Day Labor Day. America should celebrate May Day, with all the other countries, apart from anything else to show that she isn’t behindhand on recognising the history and the 8-hour day ideal. But why stop celebrating Labor Day and the issues which gave rise to it?

  27. Dresden Scott -  September 6, 2010 - 11:33 am

    The US government and our corporate-controlled culture go to great lengths to avoid too much internationalism among our workers…. Our entire labor history gets whitewashed out of the classroom. Even our labor day gets celebrated differently. Here in Minneapolis/St. Paul, we even have an “Aquatennial” in lieu of the anniversary of the 1934 Teamster Strike, which used to be a big celebration.

  28. Silverchild -  September 6, 2010 - 11:29 am

    I agree with elahe. I don’t live in America, but I think that May Day should be the first globally celebrated holiday honouring workers wrights.

  29. Farrah -  September 6, 2010 - 11:25 am

    This just further confirms that Americans have to be different from the rest of the world. Personally, I’m used to having labor day being on the first day of September so we shouldn’t change it now. But we really should have celebrated Labor Day with the rest of the world on May 1 to begin with.

  30. totolotto70 -  September 6, 2010 - 11:17 am

    I was astonished when I learned from Billy Bragg’s twitter-page that today is Labor Day.

  31. elahe -  September 6, 2010 - 10:55 am

    I’d say it’s better to celebrate it with all those 80 countries on May 1.


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