While most Americans likely consider Labor Day a uniquely American experience, but in all reality, Labor Day has its origins in Canada. Stemming from 1870’s labor disputes in Toronto, in 1872 a parade was held in support of a strike against the 58 hour workweek. As a result, 24 union leaders who were responsible for organizing the event were arrested under anti-union laws.
First Labor Day festivities included "speeches, a picnic, an abundance of cigars and, Lager beer kegs... mounted in every conceivable place." (quote from a NY daily newspaper).
Labor Day in many countries is celebrated as May Day or International Workers Day (May 1), which was originally spawned by Europe's proletariat movement, largely inspired by Communism. In 1958, President Eisenhower designated May 1 as both Law Day and Loyalty Day. Each of these were specifically aimed at replacing the communist holiday with a religious or patriotic one.
The orm that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.
The first Labor Day celebration in the United States can be traced to New York City's Union Square on Sept. 5, 1882. It was designed as a way to appease city workers after numerous strikes and in some cases even violence.
Oregon was the first, then Colorado, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey followed as the first states to declare Labor Day a state holiday.
Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Monday of September every year since President Grover Cleveland declared that day Labor Day in 1894. The extended weekend helps Americans who choose to travel.
Originating as a celebration for the working class, Labor Day has also evolved into the unofficial end of the summer season and for many school districts the beginning of the academic year again.
Sources: Labor Day trivia sites