Labour Day commemorates the eight-hour working day initiated by the labour union movement over a century ago. It is celebrated on the fourth Monday in October.
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The ‘eight-hour day’ recognises that each day has eight hours for work, eight for rest and eight for recreation. The origin of New Zealand’s labour movement goes back to 1840. A 50-year commemoration of the eight-hour day was held in October 1890 in Wellington.
The first official Labour Day holiday was in 1900 and was attributed to a Liberal government peacemaking effort as they had not yet fully implemented the eight-hour day across all industries. Early Labour Day celebrations included displays of floats and banners paraded through towns and cities.
After the 1920’s, the Labour Day parade began to decline and the day became, in many places, simply a welcome holiday. Labour Day falls in spring and, if the weather is pleasant, it becomes a day of family outings and impromptu sporting events.
But in October, the weather is not predictable. For example, in October 2012, snow fell on Canterbury and a tornado severely damaged buildings in the west coast towns of Hector and Ngakawau.