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Difference Between Labor Day and Memorial Day

Labor Day:


American Unionists consider it a day to protest and a day to celebrate the unrecognised efforts of the working class in the socio-economic sphere. It symbolizes the expressions of class consciousness and social tranquillity (Kazin 1294). It aims to celebrate the emergence of a Labor Union Movement or Central Labor Union formed in the nineteenth century.  

Characteristics of Labor Day:

•    Labor Day is observed as a national holiday in many countries throughout the world.

•    Number “8” holds significance with regards to Labor Day as it symbolizes the support of 8-hour long working hours of the working-class population instead of 12 to 20 working hours which exploits their basic rights.

•    The day remembers the Haymarket undertaking, which occurred on 4th May hence called May Day. It is also named as Workers’ Day in many countries.


Memorial Day:


Memorial Day pays gratitude to the unnamed endeavours, unreserved abnegation and matchless valour of the U.S military and soldiers who won the blessing of freedom, peace, and national security. This day people enrich their memories by recalling their memories and recognizing their efforts (DANA 266).

Characteristics of Memorial Day:

•    Memorial Day is regarded as a federal holiday in the United States.

•    Memorial Day is also regarded as Decoration Day because the graves and coffins of the deceased soldiers were decorated with flowers, wreaths, and flag.

•    Waterloo, New York was considered the birthplace of Memorial Day because of the celebrations that took place there, but it is still not confirmed where the celebrations first began.


Similarities between Labor Day and Memorial Day:

1.    Both days hold historical significance and denote a particular struggle of a certain class of people such as working class in case of Labor Day and Military in case of Memorial Day.

2.    In the U.S, both holidays fall on Monday. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May while the first Monday of September is celebrated as Labor Day in the U.S.


Differences between Labor Day and Memorial Day:

1.    Remembrance:

Memorial Day commemorates the efforts of U.S Military, all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their homeland. But, Labor Day recognizes the efforts of the working-class population often left unnoticed and unappreciated despite playing a major role in the economy of the world.

2.    Founder:

Matthew Maguire, the Secretary of Central Labor Union first proposed the idea of Labor Day and later the vice president of American Federation of Labor Peter J. McGuire put forth its proposition. While, the founder of Memorial Day is the President of America, Lyndon Johnson.

3.    Countries:

Labor Day is celebrated around the globe in more than 100 countries including Germany, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Finland, Slovenia, Sweden, Brazil, Cuba, Pakistan, Canada, China, and many countries of the United States while Memorial Day is celebrated in various countries of the United States due to the historical context of this day.

4.    Date:

May Day or Labor Day is celebrated at the onset of spring and is celebrated to recognize the achievements of workers hence most of the countries celebrate it on 1st May or 6th May, states like Trinidad and Tobago celebrate it in June, while countries in the United States celebrate it on the first Monday of September. The date of May Day varies in different countries around the globe. On the contrary, Memorial Day is celebrated every year according to the date of last Monday of May.

5.   Legal recognition:

The holiday for Labor Day passed through the state legislature in 1885 and 1886. On February 21st, 1887, the bill to recognize it and to make it a public holiday was passed in Oregon for the first time. In contrast, the official holiday for Memorial Day was declared after the Uniform Monday Act was passed by General Logan in 1971.

6.  Celebration:

Labor Day also called as May Day upholds the old traditions in many areas of the world. Due to its association with the spring season, it has rich cultural roots as well. Many towns in the United Kingdom, celebrate it by crowning the May Queen, setting up the Maypoles, dressing up in costumes and hobby horses. Celebration of this day also includes parades and singing choir in colleges. To acknowledge the efforts of the workers it is considered as a national holiday hence parades and protests are arranged to safeguard the rights of workers.

On the other hand, Memorial Day is famous for its grand parades in different countries of the United States such as the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C, Little Neck-Douglaston the largest Memorial Day parade of New York and Chicago Memorial Day parade. Moreover, there is a celebration of the American Navy called Fleet Week which includes different activities of ships, submarines and water tours. People also visit the memorials and cemeteries to pay their regards to the dead.

Labor Day Vs Memorial Day: Comparison Chart


Summary of Labor Day Vs Memorial Day

Labor Day and Memorial Day both play a significant role in the history of Labor Movements and soldiers respectively. There is a national holiday on Labor Day while a federal holiday on Memorial Day. The way these traditions are celebrated is evolving with time but usually; the celebration includes parades, music festivals, and visiting the cemetery in case of Memorial Day.


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References :

[0]DANA, OLIVE E. “MEMORIAL DAY.” The Journal of Education, vol. 57, no. 17 (1426), 1903, pp. 263–266. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44064077.

[1]Kazin, Michael, and Steven J. Ross. “America's Labor Day: The Dilemma of a Workers' Celebration.” The Journal of American History, vol. 78, no. 4, 1992, pp. 1294–1323. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2079344.

[2]“History of Labor Day.” U.S. Department of Labor, www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history.

[3]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/tag-der-arbeit-vereinigte-staaten-1628502/

[4]Image credit: https://media.defense.gov/2018/May/17/2001918430/-1/-1/0/180525-F-PO640-003.JPG

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