The True Meaning of Labor Day

Humor Columnist Joe Donatelli rails against the crass commercialization of and explains the true meaning of Labor Day.


Labor Day. Some say it’s getting too commercial—too gaudy. Stores put out their festive Labor Day decorations months in advance. Homeowners race each other to string up their Labor Day lights first. And radio stations play the same Labor Day songs nonstop. Yes, America, it seems somewhere along the way we lost the true meaning of Labor Day.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Labor Day ain’t what it used to be. What used to be a humble observance has morphed into an orgy of crass secular celebration, an orgy whose key bowl is the first Monday of September and whose keys are the picnic hamburgers, potato salad and corn hole boards that we worship instead of the true spirit of Labor Day.

Now everyone everywhere takes advantage of this precious holiday for all the wrong reasons. Over at Fox News, the Fair and Balanced Squad runs hyped-up stories about the supposed “War on Labor Day.”

As if.

Oh, yes, there is a War on Labor Day, but it’s not the one Fox News claims it is. Just because one small town in Pennsylvania or wherever wants to honor a little thing called the Constitution and refuses to erect scenes from the first Labor Day in front of city hall does not mean Labor Day is under attack. In fact, it’s pretty hilarious that Fox News would choose to defend Labor Day from “attack” when it continually practices none of Labor Day’s most cherished values. But that’s another commentary!

A brief side note: To those who actively celebrate Labor Day, it would be nice to see some of you step away from the Labor Day shopping lines for a moment and donate your time to a local soup kitchen or give toys for children who will have no toys this Labor Day.

The Internet has only exacerbated the issue, in my opinion. What was once a quiet, dignified celebration of American workers has ballooned into a self-serving social media frenzy. Oh, how handsome your family looks on Labor Day in front of your Labor Day tree! Right there in my Facebook feed. Aren’t you all SO perfect?

And what about those Americans who do not work? To them Labor Day is nothing but an organized insult, one that brazenly touts the virtues of gainful employment and national progress to the nation’s be-couched. As a country we spit on an entire group of people with our Labor Day preening.


What is the true meaning of Labor Day? It’s not about the Labor Day gifts or the Labor Day movies or all that delicious Labor Day eggnog. Labor Day is a day in which we celebrate the virtues of working by not working. Let us never, ever forget this fact.

So Happy Labor Day, America! And to our Jewish friends, please enjoy all eight days and nights of this special Labor Day season. And to our black brothers and sisters, Happy Laboranza.

Joe Donatelli is a journalist in Los Angeles. Follow him @joedonatelli.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker


Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.

  • Jane Boursaw

    Thanks for reminding me about Labor Day! As a self-employed work-at-home girl, all the days and nights run into each other and I never remember when holidays are upon us.

  • You’re making the rest of us look bad, Jane :)

  • Rich K

    Damn Fox News. They do the same thing every year with Arbor Day. Now I can’t hang trees on my trees because of them.

  • Sheppard Smith Frownie Face

  • Lisa

    And I thought Labor Day was a trick question and really about parades, thanks for clarifying.

  • If I can help just one person realize the real meaning of Labor Day, I’ll have done my job.