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Labour Day or Labor Day is an annual holiday celebrated all over the world that resulted from the labour union movement, to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. The majority of countries celebrate Labour Day on May 1, and it is popularly known as May Day and International Workers' Day, while some celebrate on the first Monday of September.

The celebration of Labour Day has its origins in the Eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

Labour Days on the First of May

Labor Day: Most countries celebrate Labour Day on May 1, known as May Day and International Workers' Day. In Europe the day has older significance as a rural festival which is predominantly more important than that of the Labour Day movement. The holiday has become internationalised and several countries hold multi-day celebrations including parades, shows and other patriotic and labour-oriented events. However, in Northern Europe, Walpurgis Night is celebrated on the preceding night and this holiday merges with the Labour Day in some countries.

May 1 is a national holiday in Albaniamarker, Argentinamarker, Arubamarker, Austria, Bangladeshmarker, Belarusmarker, Belgium, Boliviamarker, Bosniamarker, Brazilmarker, Bulgariamarker, Cameroonmarker, Chilemarker, Colombiamarker, Costa Ricamarker, China, Croatiamarker, Cubamarker, Cyprusmarker, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congomarker,Denmark, Dominican Republicmarker, Ecuadormarker, El Salvadormarker, Egyptmarker, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemalamarker, Haitimarker, Hondurasmarker, Hong Kong, Hungary, Icelandmarker, India, Indonesiamarker (locally known as Hari Buruh), Italy, Jordanmarker, Kenyamarker, Latviamarker, Lithuaniamarker, Lebanonmarker, Macedoniamarker, Madagascarmarker, Malaysiamarker, Maltamarker, Mauritiusmarker, Mexico, Moroccomarker, Myanmar marker, Nigeriamarker, North Koreamarker, Norway, Pakistanmarker, Panamamarker, Paraguaymarker, Perumarker, Poland, the Philippines, Portugalmarker, Romaniamarker, the Russian Federationmarker, Singaporemarker, Slovakiamarker, Sloveniamarker, South Korea, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lankamarker, Serbiamarker, Surinamemarker, Sweden, Syriamarker, Taiwanmarker, Thailandmarker, Turkeymarker, Ukrainemarker, Uganda, Uruguaymarker, Venezuelamarker, Vietnammarker, Yemenmarker, Zambiamarker, and Zimbabwemarker.

In Slovenia, Serbia and Ukraine, May 2 is also a national holiday.

In Poland, while May 1 is a national holiday, it was renamed from Labour Day to simply "State Holiday" in 1990.

In the United Kingdommarker and some Caribbeanmarker nations, a labour holiday is provided on the first Monday of May, which may coincide with May 1 but often does not. These nations include the United Kingdommarker, Antigua and Barbudamarker, Dominicamarker, the Dominican Republicmarker, the British overseas territory of Montserratmarker, Saint Kitts and Nevismarker, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker. Also, as discussed in the Australia section below, Queensland and the Northern Territorymarker follow this policy.

Labour Days on the first Monday of September

Bermuda, Canada and the United States celebrate labour day on the first Monday of September.


May 1 is a national holiday in Albaniamarker, commemorating the Workers' Movement. During Socialist Albania, the Politburo organized pompous parades on the main boulevard of Tiranamarker. Since the collapse of communism, however, unions organize occasional peaceful protests.


Celebrating the Australian labour movement, the Labour Day public holiday is fixed by the various state and territory governments, and so varies considerably. It is the first Monday in October in the Australian Capital Territorymarker, New South Walesmarker and South Australiamarker. In both Victoriamarker and Tasmaniamarker, it is the second Monday in March (though the latter calls it Eight Hours Day). In Western Australia, Labour Day is the first Monday in March. In both Queensland and the Northern Territorymarker, it is the first Monday in May.

The Bahamas

Labour week is celebrated on the first week in June, and is a public holiday.


a Labour Day parade in Toronto, Canada in 1900
Labour Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in September in Canada since the 1880s. The origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back to April 14, 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union's strike for a 58-hour work-week. The Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) called its 27 unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since March 25. George Brown, Canadian politician and editor of the Toronto Globe hit back at his striking employees, pressing police to charge the Typographical Union with "conspiracy." Although the laws criminalizing union activity were outdated and had already been abolished in Great Britain, they were still on books in Canada and police arrested 24 leaders of the Typographical Union. Labour leaders decided to call another similar demonstration on September 3 to protest the arrests. Seven unions marched in Ottawamarker, prompting a promise by Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to repeal the "barbarous" anti-union laws. Parliament passed the Trade Union Act on June 14 the following year, and soon all unions were demanding a 54-hour work-week.

The Toronto Trades and Labour Council (successor to the TTA) held similar celebrations every spring. American Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was asked to speak at a labour festival in Toronto, Canada on July 22, 1882. Returning to the United States, McGuire and the Knights of Labor organized a similar parade based on the Canadian event on September 5, 1882 in New York City, USA. On July 23, 1894, Canadian Prime Minister John Thompson and his government made Labour Day, to be held in September, an official holiday. In the United States, the New York parade became an annual event that year, and in 1894 was adopted by American president Grover Cleveland to compete with International Workers' Day (May Day).

While Labour Day parades and picnics are organized by unions, many Canadians today simply regard Labour Day as the Monday of the last long weekend of summer. Non-union celebrations include picnics, fireworks displays, water activities, and public art events. Since the new school year generally starts right after Labour Day, families with school-age children take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer.

An old custom prohibits the wearing of white after Labour Day. The explanations for this tradition range from the fact that white clothes are worse protection against cold weather in the winter to the fact that the rule was intended as a status symbol for new members of the middle class in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

A Labour Day tradition in Canada is the Labour Day Classic, a Canadian Football League event where rivals like Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts, and Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers play on Labour Day weekend. Before the demise of the Ottawa Renegades after the 2005 season, that team played the nearby Montreal Alouettes on Labour Day weekend. Since then, the Alouettes have played the remaining team in the league, the BC Lions.


Celebrated on May 1, Labor Day in China is a major holiday carrying comparable significance as the National Day, which occurrs on October 1, and the Spring Festival on the first day of the first lunar month.

In 1999, the Labour Day holiday was extended from 1 day to 3 days. The Chinese government made it a 7 day holiday by moving the prior and upcoming weekends together with these 3 days. The Labour Day holiday was one of the three Golden Weeks in China, allowing millions of Chinese people to travel during this period.

Starting January 1, 2008, the People's Republic of China reduced this holiday period down to 1 day, while simultaneously reviving three traditional Chinese holidays: Dragon Boat Festival (端午节), Tomb-Sweeping Day (清明节) , and the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节).


May 1 is declared a holiday in France. The french also celebrate "Le jour du muguet". Workers and students sell lily of the valley (French: Muguet) on the streets and from door to door to collect funds for unions and associations.


In Germany, Labour Day was established as an official holiday in 1933 after the Nazi Party rose to power. It was supposed to symbolise the new-found unity between the state and the German people. However, just one day later, on May 2, 1933, all free unions were outlawed and destroyed. But since the holiday had been celebrated by German workers for many decades before the official state endorsement, the Nazi attempt to appropriate it left no long-term resentment.


In Greece, May 1 is a state holiday. Left-wing parties invariably refer to it as a "strike" instead, organizing commemorative marches throughout the country.


India started observing Labour week beginning on May 1, 1927. It is a public holiday with processions carried out by various labour organizations. In Maharashtramarker and Gujaratmarker (States in India), Labour week also coincides with 'Maharashtra Divas' and 'Gujarat Divas' (respectively, Maharashtra Day and Gujarat Day) because the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were created on the same week in 1960.


Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Labour Day in Imperial Iran was a holiday on the same day as Canada and the United States.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran (1979-present), Labour Day is not a holiday but it is officially celebrated on May 1 to thank workers as an important group of society.


In Irelandmarker, Labour Day falls on May Day, the first Monday in May, which is a public holiday.


In Israelmarker May 1 is not officially celebrated, but each year the socialist and Marxist youth movements arrange a parade in Tel Avivmarker.


In Italy, May 1 is national holiday, demonstrations of the trade unions are widespread. Since the 1990s, the trade unions have organised a massive free concert in Rome, with attendances topping a million people.


Before 1961, May 24 was celebrated in Jamaica as Empire Day in honour of the birthday of Queen Victoria and her emancipation of slaves in Jamaica. As its name suggests, the day was used to celebrate the British Empire and England, complete with flag-raising ceremonies and the singing of patriotic songs.

In 1961, Jamaican Chief Minister Norman Washington Manley proposed the replacement of Empire Day with Labour Day, a celebration in commemoration of May 23, 1938, when Alexander Bustamante led a labour rebellion leading to Jamaican independence.

Until May 23, 1971, Labour Day was primarily a trade unions celebration with public rallies and marches. On occasion, opposing trade unions clashed on this day, so in 1972, Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley promoted Labour Day as a showcase for the importance of labour to the development of Jamaica, and a day of voluntary community participation to beneficial projects. Since then, Labour Day has not only been a public holiday, but also a day of mass community involvement around the country.


1 May (L-Ewwel ta' Mejju) is a public holiday in Maltamarker. Celebrations mainly in Vallettamarker held by General Workers Union and Malta Labour Party.


In Mexico, Labour week is a public holiday held on the first week of May.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Labour Day is a public holiday held on the fourth Monday in October. Its origins are traced back to the eight-hour working day movement that arose in the newly founded Wellingtonmarker colony in 1840, primarily because of carpenter Samuel Parnell's refusal to work more than eight hours a day. He encouraged other tradesmen to also only work for eight hours a day and, in October 1840, a workers' meeting passed a resolution supporting the idea. On October 28, 1890, the 50th anniversary of the eight-hour day was commemorated with a parade. The event was then celebrated annually in late October as either Labour Day or Eight-Hour Demonstration Day. In 1899 government legislated that the day be a public holiday from 1900. The day was celebrated on different days in different provinces. This led to ship owners complaining that seamen were taking excessive holidays by having one Labour Day in one port then another in their next port. In 1910 the government "Mondayised" the holiday so that it would be observed on the same day throughout the nation. Nowadays for the majority of New Zealanders it's "just another holiday".

The Philippines

The first May 1 celebration in the Philippines was held on May 1, 1903 under the Union Obrero Democratica de Filipinas (UODF). Thousands of workers marched from Plaza Moriones in Tondomarker to Malacanang Palacemarker (then seat of the Governor-General of the Philippines) to demand complete independence. On April 8, 1908, the Philippine Assembly passed a bill making the first day of May a national holiday. It is titled "Labor day", spelled in American English, since the Philippines was a former American territory. On May 1, 1974, President Ferdinand Marcos, in the exercise of his then extant legislative powers, signed Presidential Decree No. 442 known as the Labor Code of the Philippines. It was drafted by the Secretary of Labor Blas Ople.

Every May 1, labor unions march from the Mabuhay (Welcome) Rotonda in the Quezon Citymarker-Manilamarker border to Plaza Mirandamarker to Mendiola Bridge (the bridge nearest to the Malacanang Palacemarker main gate) to protest anti-labor practices and to denounce the seating president. The only exception was on May 1, 2001, during EDSA III uprising, where the protest is not related to Labor day but to unseat the president. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a State of Rebellion pursuant to Proclamation No. 38 and lifted the order on May 7, 2001.

Though it was suggested under Republic Act No. 9492, setting holidays including Labor Day to the nearest Monday, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not move Labor Day as it may spark opposition from different labor unions.

Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad and Tobagomarker, Labour Day is celebrated every June 19. This holiday was proposed in 1973 to be commemorated on the anniversary of the 1937 Butler labour riots.


In Turkeymarker, May 1 is celebrated as Labour and Solidarity Day, valid from 2009 and its public holiday.

The United States

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday that falls on the first Monday of September. It is customarily viewed as the end of the summer, especially of the vacation season; many schools open for the year in the week after Labor Day. The United States also adopted the tradition of not wearing white after Labor Day from Canada.

See also


  3. Trinidad and Tobago Labour Day
  4. 5 U.S.C. § 6103(a).
  5. Yelena Johnson, Labor Day End of Summer White Party, Celebrations. Accessed 2009.10.05.
  6. Rosalind S. Helderman, " Issues That Matter to You: School Start After Labor Day"; The Washington Post, September 6, 2009.

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