Most American holidays have distinct and traditional activities that go along with them. On Thanksgiving, you stuff yourself with stuffing. On Independence Day, you launch fireworks. On Christmas and Hanukah and other December holidays, you give gifts to friends and family.

But what about that first weekend in September? It’s nice to have a day off work, but haven’t you ever wondered how to celebrate Labor Day?

Me, too. So I did a little bit of research. And here are 6 ideas for how to celebrate Labor Day in 2017.


History of Labor Day

Before we get started: Why do we celebrate Labor Day in the first place? Labor Day honors the societal contributions of American workers and their roles in making the United States prosperous and strong.

The push for a Labor Day first cropped up in American cities in the late 19th century. Many municipalities passed ordinances that honored workers. Then state entered the mix, the first of which was Oregon when it passed a Labor Day law in 1887. Other states quickly followed that same year, including New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Colorado.

On June 28, 1894, after more than half of all states had adopted a Labor Day, the United States Congress passed an act that made Labor Day a national holiday to take place on the first Monday of each September. The Labor Department offers a helpful rundown of Labor Day history for those interested in reading more.

The United States isn’t the only country that celebrates a Labor Day. Australia, Canada, Thailand, Russia, China, Vietnam, New Zealand, Jamaica — each one’s calendar includes a day that honors workers. On this year’s American calendar, Labor Day falls next Monday, Sept. 4. Here’s a look at things you can do to celebrate.


1. Visit a Factory

I once visited Detroit, and I ventured out to Dearborn where Ford is located. I was cajoled into taking the tour of the Ford Rouge Factory. I didn’t mind it, but I wasn’t exactly pumped either.

It was fascinating.

I walked a catwalk above the factory floor as workers built Ford F150s right before my eyes, using the assembly line process created by Ford’s namesake. Here’s a look at the factory and the tour:

Labor Day (or Labor Day weekend, at least) is a great time to visit an American factory in honor of American workers. Popular Mechanics offers a rundown of 21 great American factory tours, many of which are free. There’s bound to be one in your neck of the woods.

Just think about all the great American brands: Harley-Davidson (York, PA), John Deere (Waterloo, IA), Boeing (Everett, WA), Coors (Golden, CO). Each offers a tour of the factory where the products are made.

You can even visit the United States Mint facilities in Philadelphia or Denver to see where and how our currency is made. And behind every nickel and every product that’s made in the U.S.A. are dozens of American workers. Go and honor them on this special day — or, as mentioned, this special weekend given that factories are most likely closed on Monday.


2. Find Products Made in the U.S.A.

Can’t make it to a factory? Head to the shopping mall, where you can find the output of laborers across the country. If you have kids, you can even turn it into a game — search for items that have a “Made in the U.S.A.” tag.

You can even get a head start by checking out this list of 100 brands that make their goods in America, or by using this directory of American-made items.


3. Watch Some Football

The NFL doesn’t start for another week, so Labor Day weekend is packed with high school and college football. Head out to your local high school on Friday night and catch the amateur action. Or, there’s a full slate of college football games starting Thursday and carrying straight through to Monday night.

The headlining game Saturday night is No. 3 Florida State against No. 1 Alabama (kickoff at 8 p.m. EDT). If you’re looking for game action that actually takes place on Labor Day, catch No. 25 Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech on ESPN. The game starts at 8 p.m. EDT.


4. Do Something for Others

It’s also good to remember that some people are working on Labor Day. And isn’t that the essence of American labor: While many of us are relaxing and celebrating, many others are doing jobs that don’t get a day off.

If you order a pizza, visit a restaurant or ride in a cab, consider tipping just a little bit extra. Or, if you have kids, consider baking some cookies and dropping them by the fire station, the police station or the emergency room. These public service providers and emergency response personnel are always on duty, and Labor Day is the perfect time to say “thank you.”


5. Throw a Party

One thing that I always associated with Labor Day: Summer is basically over. Use Labor Day as a chance to throw a backyard party and to enjoy the warmth of summer before the days get short and cold.

Given that many still abide by the no-white-after-Labor-Day fashion rule, you can encourage your guests to wear something white. That said, here’s a takedown on that outdated fashion rule. And, if you do move forward with a Labor Day party, take advantage of these backyard party tips.


6. Relax

Labor Day is a chance to workers to spend a Monday away from the office. If you do nothing else, make sure you make time to relax. Sleep late, lie in a hammock, get a massage, have a drink, laugh, carry on. All of these are good ideas for American workers on Labor Day.

Because Tuesday comes with a bucket of cold reality. It’s back to the grind, and you’ll find yourself playing catch-up from your day off. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts.


If You’re the Boss

If you’re a business owner, a boss or a manager, Labor Day is an opportunity to recognize the people who work for you. A few ideas for you to say a quick “thank you” to your team on or around Labor Day:

  • Early Release: Workers love a short afternoon. Consider cutting everyone loose around 2 or a little earlier than normal on Friday so that they can get a jump on the long weekend.
  • Food: Have lunch catered for the team on Friday, and make it something good. Make sure that your employee know that it is in recognition of all their hard work.
  • Personal Notes: There’s nothing like a handwritten note to someone who’s been doing a good job. Take time to write out a letter that tells certain employees what they mean to the overall operation. It will give them a lift, not just on Labor Day, but for weeks and months beyond.
  • Snap Bonuses: You may cringe when reading this, but bear with me. There’s no better way to say “thanks” to your team members than through a little extra compensation. It doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, you could even get Amazon gift cards and pass them out. Trust me, your team will love you for it, and it will be worth the investment to enjoy the goodwill it engenders.


Final Thoughts on How to Celebrate Labor Day

When in doubt, always focus on friends and family. Life is short and time away from work is precious. Whatever you do, make sure you do it with the people most important in your life.

Do you already have Labor Day plans? Share in the comments section below, or let us know using our contact page.