A Debate: Is Labor Day the Best Holiday?

Or is it just kind of okay?

September 2, 2019 6:00 am
Some people really love Labor Day, apparently
Some people really love Labor Day, apparently

Not all holidays are created equal. Most experts, by which I mean me just now, tend to break them down into three main categories. 

First and foremost, there are your heavy hitters, the starting lineup. Often referred to as “major holidays,” these ones need no introduction: Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4th, etc. 

Then you have some weird throwaway holidays like Valentine’s Day and — I’m aware I may take some heat for this one — Halloween. These holidays are mostly just inconvenient because you don’t get any time off for them and they’re tacky, but most other people seem to pay attention to them so you kind of have to acknowledge them too. 

And last but not necessarily least, you have your long weekends. These span a wide variety of seasons and events, and include everything from Martin Luther King Jr. Day to, of course, Labor Day. In general, these holidays are pretty low stakes. Most of them don’t require a lot of planning, money or forced family interaction, so they’re basically just free vacation days sprinkled throughout the year like small little motivational treats to tide us over in between major holidays. 

Essentially, long weekends are fine, but that’s really all there is to say about them. Which is why I was surprised and a little confused the other day to hear my coworker, Kirk Miller, claim Labor Day was “the best holiday.”

I don’t even know if this take is hot, but it is bold — bolder, I would argue, than anything involving Labor Day really has any right to be. To get to the bottom of this weird take, Kirk and I went to the place all major office disputes must go — a private Slack channel. 

Kirk: Labor Day is the best holiday. Full stop.

Kayla: That is already a much more aggressive take than I was anticipating.

Kirk: While travel friendly, it doesn’t have the (ha) baggage of other holidays. It’s not religious, no one died and, to me, it celebrates the idea that you worked hard, you get a long weekend. It celebrates both work AND play.

Kayla: Okay, so these are all strong ideological points. Yes, Labor Day is objectively less problematic, weird and/or creepy than most other holidays if you accidentally think about them for more than a second. But I feel like ultimately all that does is support the thesis that Labor Day is the most mediocre holiday. Sure, it’s not bothering or offending anyone, but it’s also not really bringing anything to the table.

Kirk: Except sessionable drinks.

I used to think Thanksgiving was THE holiday, but you have the added pressure of family, plus bad weather conditions and the overall guilt that we reneged on all our deals with the Native Americans. I leap from Thanksgiving straight into the Trail of Tears.

Kayla: I do love Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is that bitch. But I agree, it’s not without its flaws.

But even if we accept the premise that Labor Day is ethically flawless (which I have an argument against, but let’s put a pin in that for a moment), a holiday doesn’t get to be the best, from an enjoyment standpoint, just on the basis of being ideologically unproblematic.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Labor Day. In fact, I largely agree that there’s not (but again, remember that pin). There’s just also not anything particularly good about it. It’s neutral. Labor Day is a perfectly neutral, boring holiday. And yeah, sure, there’s the day drinking, but you can do that on any holiday.

Kirk: I call that Tuesdays. But seriously — I do see some of your points. This can’t be the “best” holiday because it’s the least problematic. So I’ll need to provide a few more examples.

This one is arguable: As someone who dislikes summer (mainly, the humidity), Labor Day for me marks a time when it’s warm but usually quite agreeable out. It’s the weather I wanted all summer. It marks, if not strictly by the September Equinox, the beginning of fall, which when you’re NOT a kid is a great time of year (when you’re a kid, Labor Day is that long weekend you dread because it means school is back), and fall is the best season — better weather, better culture (tv, movies, books, etc.) Also, Monday holidays are the best  — your next work week is just four days!

Kayla: Right, but when you’re an adult it’s just that long weekend that reminds you that you no longer get a fresh start every fall and instead the wheel just keeps spinning forever largely without change.

Kirk: Wow.

Kayla: Labor Day is dark.

Kirk: Damn. But much like the leaves, I do change every … no, wait, not true.

Kayla: Oh I forgot about my pin.

Kirk: Go for it.

Kayla: Even Labor Day is not entirely without ethical flaws, because some of the nation’s most overworked, underpaid employees still have to work, probably even more than usual, on a holiday specifically designed to give workers a break, thanks to Labor Day sales.

But again, I’m ultimately not anti-Labor Day. It’s not like I don’t want the long weekend. I just think your stance is too aggressive. I will accept such stances as, Labor Day Doesn’t Suck, or Labor Day Is Underrated. I’ll even hear you out if you want to argue Labor Day is the best summer holiday (it’s not, but I’ll still listen.) But The Best? Full stop? I admire the heat on that take, but I just can’t get behind it.

Kirk: It depends on the job — I believe in my fast food teen days I got time and a half.

And I know NYC is statistically a popular Labor Day destination, but I find the city has a nice “everyone’s out of town” feeling, same I get on Thanksgiving and Fourth of July (depending on where you are, of course) 

Anyway, final words? Also, a quick addition from a parent/editor in the InsideHook office, who has mentioned he hates Labor Day because he’s already done with summer, and how school starting actually makes things more difficult.

Kayla: Yeah true, Mike (Conklin, Executive Editor) is the real office Labor Day hater. But I guess that’s the beautiful thing about Labor Day, there’s no pressure to enjoy yourself. And that, kids, is the true meaning of Labor Day.

Merry Labor Day to all, and to all a good three-days of day drinking.

Kirk: Kayla’s Lukewarm War on Labor Day commences … happy (or not) long weekend!

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