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Observing Labor Day

labor day

Labor Day is observed on the first Monday of September and has become known in the United States as the unofficially “official” end of summer. It’s a time that brings travelers home from summer vacations and to get the kids ready for another year in school.

The tradition to set one day aside each year to honor the state of labor and industry was first observed back in the late 1880’s. The idea was actually generated by a man named Peter McGuire, a president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, in 1882. He felt that labor workers should have day in which everyone who benefited from such workers could recognize the strength and unity of labor and trade organizations. He also suggested a parade and picnics to follow such an observance. Why did he choose September 5th to honor the day? Simply because it fell about halfway between Independence Day, celebrated on July 4th, and Thanksgiving Day, celebrated during the later part of November.

The Central Labor Union adopted McGuire’s idea, and the first day Labor Day was first celebrated on September 5, 1882. New York City came alive with parades and speeches by various labor party and union members throughout the city. During the next couple of years, the idea of celebrating a Labor Day caught on in other states, and by 1894, the day had been made a legal holiday in thirty of them. Today, the holiday is celebrated and observed by every state in the Union. While many celebrate Labor Day as the last day of summer festivities, many keep the traditions of Labor Day alive by recognizing the efforts of laborers throughout the country. It’s a day during which attention can be drawn to the issue of worker’s rights and benefits, as well as improving the status of laborers everywhere throughout the world.

In 1954, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times stated, “Labor Day has become an integral part of the American way of life. It reflects a degree of optimism and mutual confidence on the part of all segments of society that few countries can equal.” The rights of workers and the decent payment of wages sets America apart from many other industrialized nations throughout the globe. Child labor laws in America prevent children from being trapped in lives of labor, denied a school education or other rights. Over the decades, American workers have fought for, and won, the right to equal pay for equal work, among both men and women employees.

While over the years, Labor Day has not only grown from an official day away from work, it’s celebrated as a day of family get-togethers, of trips to the beach and picnics in parks, where everyone, male or female can enjoy a day off work if they so choose.

New York City sees the largest parades and ceremonies, as hundreds of thousands of labor union employees and officials continue the legacy of Peter McGuire. The honor and respect paid to workers, no matter what their jobs, began as such a tiny seed in the mind of McGuire so many years ago. Now, not only hand laborers and carpenters enjoy the benefits of his dream, but also bankers, schoolteachers and craftsmen throughout America are able to recognize and reflect on the benefits of labor in our country. Worker’s rights and movements have made great strides in continuing American traditions of fair and decent living wages, and while Americans often complain that minimum wages aren’t enough to keep up with rising inflation and living costs, workers in America are protected against child labor, discrimination and unfair, cruel or even forced labor practices. For that, Americans need to spend a moment on Labor Day to remember and honor the efforts of Peter McGuire over a century ago as they enjoy a day free of work.

How To Celebrate Alaska Day

Celebrate Alaska Day!

Few states within America have such a wild and illustrious reputation as Alaska, and one of the state’s most popular holidays is Alaska Day, the day that commemorates the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States territories on October 18, 1867.

Celebrated in Sitka every year, Alaska Day is a day filled with history and tradition, a celebration that honors diversity among its varied inhabitants and heritage. In 1867, the Alaska territory was officially ceded to the United States from Russia, and the documents were signed, sealed and delivered on March 29 of that year as United States Secretary of State William Henry, under President Andrew Johnson and Baron Eduard de Stoeckl, the Russian Minister to the United States, completed creation of the draft that was to prove so beneficial to America.

Sitka is the town where the illustrious event took place and continues to be the site of modern day celebrations that remember the event, keeping the history of Alaska alive and thriving in the minds of generations after its passing. Many people don’t know that the purchase was a steal at a mere two cents an acre, but Russia seemed happy with the purchase price and it was something that President Johnson could not pass up. Today, millions of Alaskan natives remember the day, though during the years immediately following the transfer, no one seemed to think it was such a big deal. The first celebration honoring the transfer was held in 1949. The day serves to not only remember the transfer of loyalties, but also the indomitable spirit that American pioneers were made of. Alaska was a land of harsh extremes and difficulties, but it is on one of the most beautiful states in the Union.

In 1954, the Alaska Day Festival became a non-profit organization whose mission and focus is to perpetuate the annual celebration of Alaska’s American birthday every year on October 18th. Millions of Alaska natives celebrate their heritage, culture and traditions, blended from immigrants from throughout the world as well as Native American tribes who made Alaska their home hundreds of years before the first white settlers stepped foot in the state.

Every year, the Alaska Day festivities grow in size and popularity, and people from around the United States venture to the still wild country to experience a bit of Alaskan flavor for themselves. Alaska has long been known as the ‘Last Frontier’ of the United States, and its millions of miles of wild lands, animals and vast wildernesses make it easy to understand why.

The day is celebrated in Sitka with parades and special civic events. Men are encouraged to grow beards during the week’s preceding the celebrations, and women to dress in 1867-era clothing to commemorate the special day in Alaska’s history. The festive events run for several days and include costume balls, concerts and performances from troupes and clubs from around the United States. The U.S. Army band has long made it a tradition to attend the festivities, and other military branches strut their stuff with demonstrations and reenactments of the transfer that took place just two years after the conclusion of the War Between the States.

Alaska Day festivities are a time-honored tradition in Sitka, and generate interest from politicians and inhabitants from far and wide. The reenactment of the transfer between Russian and American representatives is observed on Castle Hill every year, a tradition that serves to implant the love of history and pride of spirit of Alaska in everyone in attendance, whether they are an Alaskan native or not. Alaska Day is an event that has, and always will, perpetuate a great moment in American history for both natives and American citizens in the ‘Lower Forty-eight’.

What Is Pascua Florida Day

About Pascua Florida Day

It seems that several explorers bumped into what would eventually be known as American shores without realizing where they were; Christopher Columbus, Leif Erikson and Ponce de León, among others.

Actually, Ponce de León sailed with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493 and remained on an island to the south of Florida called Santo Domingo. Ponce de León was a Spanish explorer who was seeking a fountain of youth. That’s right, a fountain of youth. This is no new-age fad, you see, but a thousand year old endeavor to remain young and vital. The Royal Family of Spain was so pleased with the explorer that they gave him an island in the Bahamas, and it was there that he began his search for the island called ‘Bimini’, which was one of the islands in the island chain that was supposed to contain this legendary fountain of youth

On his travels in early 1513, Ponce de León sighted the shores of southern Florida, and landed near what is known today as St. Augustine. However, he didn’t know that he had landed, not on an island, but on a vast continent. Because he saw enormous amounts and different varieties of flowers, and that it was the time of the Spanish Easter celebration, he called the location, ‘Pascua de Florida’, which in the Spanish language roughly means ‘flowery Easter’. Regardless, Ponce de León claimed the land for Spain and continued exploring the river ways and bays found throughout the Florida Keys in search of his elusive fountain. After arriving in Cuba, he abandoned his search and briefly returned to Spain.

Ponce de León didn’t give up easily. Five years later, the Spaniard tried again, this time with two ships and two hundred men. In 1521, his ships landed along the eastern shoreline of Florida. They actually stepped on American land, only to find themselves being shot at by Native Americans armed with bows and arrows. Unfortunately, an arrow struck Ponce de León and he and other injured crewmen sailed to Cuba, where he died from his wounds several months later.

Floridians have honored Ponce de Leon’s discoveries and spirit by creating Pascua Florida Day, celebrated every April 2nd, in recognition of the Spanish explorer’s naming of their state. While the day is neither a federal or national holiday, Florida natives and school children take the time to learn a bit about the history of their state as the anniversary of Pascua Florida Day approaches every year. Because the explorers landed during the time of the Spanish Easter celebration, Ponce de León felt that the name, Pascua Florida, was completely appropriate for this new, uncharted land.

Unfortunately, it was some time before Florida was properly settled. Native American tribesmen drove off not only Ponce de Leon’s men, but also those of the Narváez Expedition some eighteen years later, and again twenty years after that! Exploration and settlement of Florida would take many decades to develop, but thanks to the initial exploration, though accidental, of Ponce de León in his search for the fountain of youth, determined men and women followed in his footsteps to claim the southern land for Spain.

Celebrated exclusively in Florida, Pascua Florida Day is a day to remember the daring and adventurous spirits of the men and women who came before us, to brave uncertainties, harsh winters and unfriendly inhabitants in order to broaden horizons and discover new lands and living opportunities. Florida celebrates this day with parades, civic events and speeches that remind not only Floridians, but all Americans, that we are here only because of the men and women who came before us, braving limitless difficulties and hardships to pave the way for settlement.