Editor's note: This newspaper has published this editorial, with variations, on previous holidays.
For those of us who live in south Louisiana, the arrival of another Labor Day prompts a good bit of self-congratulation. We know, with relief and no small amount of pride, that we've survived another summer in a place where the mercury rises each May and stubbornly stays there, like a cat stuck in a tree.
Summer doesn't officially end until later this year, but Labor Day is the notch we informally place in the calendar to tell us a season has turned. It's early autumn now, no matter what the purists might say.
If our fellow Americans up north can claim some measure of their ancestors' pioneer spirit by making it through frozen winters each year, then Labor Day is our time to brag. We've stared down one more summer, with its high sun and muggy embrace, yet somehow prevailed.
Hurricane season officially ends in November, and vigilance must still be the order of the day. Hurricane Laura's damage will make the heat more unbearable than it usually is, for thousands of Louisiana families.
And for people who don't have jobs to labor in, this Labor Day makes a little harder to count our blessings.
What we can do is enjoy, to the extent that social distancing allows, a well-timed holiday.
Labor Day is a way station between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, and it was put on the calendar precisely for that reason. In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, the founder and general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, suggested setting aside one day to honor America's laborers. He saw a gap in the calendar between Independence Day and Thanksgiving, and thought the holiday would, in his words, "fill a gap in the chronology of legal holidays."
McGuire was a native of New York, but his gift for spotting a lull in the year that needed a celebration seems like a Louisiana way of looking at the world, doesn't it? He would probably have felt right at home here.
New Yorkers observed the first Labor Day in 1882, when McGuire cooked up the idea, and it became a national holiday in 1893, when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. Getting an extra day off was a big deal for workers back then, as a young labor movement struggled to achieve what many Americans broadly enjoy today: a 40-hour workweek and formalized vacation policies.
The best gift of Labor Day, for those fortunate enough to have the day off, is the day itself — a few spare hours at the tail end of summer, to spend as we like before autumn begins in earnest. Thank you, Mr. McGuire, for making it so.