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15 Surprising Facts You Never Knew About Labor Day

Find out the real reason we're not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, how the holiday can increase your lifespan, and more.

Stars and Stripes on American FlagRoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty Images

Time to raise the flag

With Labor Day quickly approaching, it’s time to find out what exactly this federal holiday means. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered! Let your flag fly high and proud after learning all of these interesting facts about Labor Day. After, read up on some more specifics of the holiday and exactly why we celebrate it.

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No one is sure who came up with the idea first

The credit for the idea behind Labor Day goes to… one of two people. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are some records that suggest Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, first proposed a day celebrating workers. However, some historians believe the credit actually goes to a machinist named Matthew Maguire, who reportedly suggested the idea while he was secretary of the Central Labor Union. Want to do some shopping this Labor Day? These are 16 stores that are open during the holiday.

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The first Labor Day parade was in New York City

On September 5, 1882, New York’s Central Labor Union held a parade to celebrate union work and show support for all unions. More than 10,000 union workers took unpaid time off work to march from City Hall, past Union Square, and up to 42nd Street, Politico reports. These are 18 of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

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Here’s where the “no white after Labor Day” rule came from

Ever wonder why you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day? The tradition goes back to the end of the Civil War, when society was ruled by the wealthy wives of old-money elites. As more new-money millionaires entered society, the jealous old regime invented a whole suite of arbitrary fashion rules that only those in the in-crowd would know. Anyone who showed up to an autumn dinner party in a white dress, for example, would be instantly outed as a nouveau riche newbie. That tradition of not wearing white past summer has since trickled down through fashion magazines and into mainstream culture… even for those of us whose ideal dinner party garb is sweatpants. The good news is, most fashion experts agree that there’s no need to follow this elitist rule today.

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Oregon was the first state to recognize the holiday

It made Labor Day a legal holiday on February 21, 1887. That same year, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York also legally adopted the holiday. These are 10 Labor Day decorations you need to celebrate the end of summer.

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President Grover Cleveland made it a national holiday

But his intentions behind this declaration weren’t so pure. In 1894, nearly 4,000 factory employees of the Pullman railway company started a strike in response to reduced wages. Boycotts, riots, and sabotage ensued; 30 people were killed across the country, and an estimated $80 million in damages was incurred. President Cleveland eventually called in the Army to bust up the strikers. Six days later, on June 28, he rushed legislation through Congress to declare Labor Day a national holiday as a conciliation.

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Other countries have their own Labor Day

It’s called May Day, takes place on May 1, and was established to celebrate workers’ rights, just like Labor Day. The holiday also coincides with International Workers’ Day. Unions around the world use this holiday as an opportunity to protest and hold demonstrations, some of which have turned violent.

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Canada celebrated Labor Day before the United States

The first Canadian Labor Day—rather, Labour Day—was in 1872, ten years before the Americans caught on. Printers in Toronto began lobbying their employers for a shorter work week. Their employers did nothing, so they began a strike on March 25, 1872. On April 14, 2,000 workers marched in solidarity of the strikers; by the time they reached their destination, the group had grown to 10,000, one-tenth of the city’s population. Check out some of the interesting jobs that don’t exist in America.

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Going to amusement parks is literally the law

Many school districts around the country start classes before Labor Day, but in at least one state, such anti-delinquency is illegal. In 1986, Virginia passed the Kings Dominion Law, an actual on-the-books statute that prohibits city and county schools from starting before Labor Day weekend so families have one last chance to hit up popular theme parks like Busch Gardens and, yes, Kings Dominion. To answer your next question: Yes, there is an amusement park lobby, and yes, they may or may not have helped keep this law on the books by donating 324 free park tickets to lawmakers between 2001 and 2013. So enjoy a roller coaster, Virginians. It’s the law. And speaking of amusement parks…these are the best parks in every state.

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It’s the official end of hot dog season

During peak “hot dog season,” which spans from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans gorge themselves on roughly 818 hot dogs every second (or 7 billion total). As summer barbecues fade into foliage walks, what foodstuff is fit to take up the mantle? Many Americans will start with “pumpkin spice” beverages. Despite pumpkin spice lattes not containing any actual pumpkin for their first decade on sale (and therefore no seasonal restrictions to serving them), coffee peddlers stand to make a killing in the next few months on their sweet, orange brew. In fall of 2015, Starbucks made an estimated $100 million in revenue from pumpkin spice latte sales. (Sorry, hot dogs. Until you can learn to flavor a latte, your time is limited.) Looking for a deal? These 18 things go on super sale on Labor Day.

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The three-day weekend may make you live longer

We’re not just telling you what you want to hear (and your employer doesn’t). In an analysis of more than 600,000 American, European, and Australian workers, the science journal The Lancet found that people who work more than 55 hours per week had a 33 percent increased risk of stroke than people who worked less than 40 hours a week. People who work 40 hours or less every week also sleep better, pick fewer fights, and are generally more productive at work, The Cut reports, than the estimated 40 percent of American workers who give 50-plus hours to the office. So slack off this weekend—it’s for your health. Check out these Labor Day weekend celebrations that end summer with a bang.

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But it’s also a dangerous holiday

Don’t let all that rest and relaxation dull your nerves. According to a study done by autoinsurance.org, researchers expect Labor Day car accidents to spike this year as cities and states continue to reopen after quarantine due to COVID-19. The data collected between 2016 to 2018 show that Labor Day is the third deadliest U.S. holiday for auto accidents, with 1,330 total fatal crashes within the three years. Please, please, please be safe and pay attention out there. Skip the drive and catch up on some z’s with these amazing mattress deals for Labor Day.

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These are the hottest Labor Day destinations

Town & Country rounded up a list of last-minute vacation spots to try to get away this Labor Day despite the pandemic. Top vacation spots include Santa Barbara, California; Chatham, Massachusetts; Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia. Here are 16 more Labor Day getaways you can totally afford.

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It’s a reminder that “bacon is a vegetable”

International Bacon Day falls on the Saturday before Labor Day every year. This unofficial (but recommended) celebration of meat is best celebrated via bacon-themed meals, desserts, and even drinks. The holiday’s motto: “Bacon is a vegetable.”

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Labor Sunday is its own holiday

While not as popular as Labor Day, some religious groups recognize the Sunday before Labor Day as Labor Sunday. It was first organized in 1909 by the American Federation of Labor as a day to reflect on “the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Today, churches celebrate it as a day to lift up workers and reaffirm their commitment to improving job conditions and advocating for justice in the workforce. These are the most stressful jobs in America.

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Labor Day celebrates a LOT of people

According to official government statistics, more than 160 million people make up the current United States labor force. Next, find out which of those workers have the highest-paying job in every state.

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