The Excitement of a New Year – Labour Day 2017


The Labour Day long weekend has snuck up on us. Didn’t we just celebrate the Victoria Day holiday a week or so ago! And now we are getting ready to end the summer and get set for the new academic year.

This long weekend unofficially brings summer to a close and reminds us of what is around the corner. Summer is winding down. We may mourn that, but we also know that the Labour Day weekend provides a chance to start afresh.


There is something exciting about starting a new calendar: using different colours to indicate different activities and classes and recording key dates. It is an infinitely hopeful act, marked by our goals and desires.

Many people are energized by listing the various due dates of assignments and meetings. I’ve always been excited about starting a new year – new possibilities, new determination and new ideas. The initial fervour may fade, but it’s an important starting point.

Like many others, I have a vivid memory of the excitement of getting new school supplies, new clothing, seeing school friends and favourite teachers, and making new friends.

I follow the children of my nieces and nephews on Facebook and Instagram. It looks as if the thrill of a new school year has never gone away. There are still photos taken on the first day of school – the supplies spread out, all set to go in the backpack.


The excitement of the new school year goes beyond where we live in the world and our economic conditions. It cuts across cultures and language.

Labour Day shares qualities with January 1. Both provide us with the opportunity to reflect back on the past year and to respond to the exciting possibilities of the approaching year. There is a new opportunity to discipline ourselves to return to healthy habits or to start new practices.

As we gather at barbecues and picnics today, let’s take a few minutes to look back on the gifts of the summer and to ponder what we will take up with a new determination as a new year starts.


Let’s not forget the official reason for this long weekend: labour. Labour Day has been an official holiday in Canada since 1894, though its origins predate that. Its roots are in the labour union movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation and eight hours for rest.

We take for granted safe and reasonable working conditions in this country, but that only happened because labourers struggled to convince Sir John A Macdonald to promise to repeal what he saw as “barbarous” anti-union laws.


Parliament passed the Trade Union Act in 1873 and Labour Day became an official holiday twenty-one years later. We have imbalance today. Many people work far too much, either by their own choice or out of necessity. Meanwhile, others cannot find meaningful work.

Just before his 2013 trip to Brazil for World Youth Day, Pope Francis warned of a “lost generation” of unemployed young people, because of the perils of global unemployment.


We will likely enjoy a cold beer or a gin and tonic this weekend. If we need a reason to toast, let’s lift our glasses to the labourers that help our culture work smoothly.

It was Sophocles who reminded us that, “without labour, nothing prospers”. This country is certainly prospering. Let us also keep in mind and heart those many young people who lack meaningful and fulfilling labour. And let’s pray for those who have the power to change that.


Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

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