If you are planning to celebrate the last 3-Day weekend of summertime, the last weekend that you are allowed to wear white again until Memorial Day and the last real holiday before Halloween, then I’m sure the biggest question on your mind is “how to decorate for Labor Day”. That’s the question keeping many Americans up at night right now, and I’m about to help you solve that life altering dilemma.
First things first, though. Do you have any idea why we celebrate this first Monday in September? Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers, and it was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century. It became a federal holiday in 1894. It also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans and is celebrated with parties, street parades and sports events. But for the purposes of this blog, we are going to celebrate with a big backyard picnic and will concentrate our efforts on making it look good! I also have a cocktail recipe to share with you and a fun idea for fruit.
So I have to confess that as a California girl, born and raised, when my husband and I moved to Boston, Massachusetts for four years while he went to medical school, there were a lot of things that we had to learn and get used to. Basically, it was a bit of a culture shock. It was a great experience for me, though, to get away from everything that I had known my whole life and learn new weather, new words, new accents and new traditions.
We moved to Boston in August of 1991, only 5 months after we’d gotten married, and luckily it didn’t take me long to get a job that lasted the entire four years that we lived there. Labor Day came about two weeks after I had started my new job. I had enjoyed a nice, 3-day weekend, and came back to work on a beautiful Tuesday morning. It was sunny and warm, pretty much exactly as it was the Friday before, when I was last at work. I worked in Waltham, Massachusetts, for a company called Summit Technology, and my job was in a department called Clinical & Regulatory Affairs with the majority of my coworkers being female. I walked in, said good morning to everyone and prepared to start working. Immediately, 3 of my coworkers were standing next to my desk, looking very sympathetic and yet somehow I was feeling a strong “judgey” kind of vibe. One of them blurted out that my white pants and white shoes were basically tacky and unacceptable. This was complete news to me. I honestly had never, ever heard anything about the “no white after Labor Day” law. I mean rule. Maybe it’s due to the fact that California doesn’t have very dramatic changes in weather throughout the year? Maybe I had just been clueless during my first 23 years of life and I’d been doing it wrong all along, even in California. I’m not sure. I can tell you this. It scarred me a little. And perhaps it was paranoia, but I felt like everyone was staring at my faux paus all day. I couldn’t wait to get home and change that day. I remember calling family and friends back home and asking them if they knew they were all breaking a big fashion rule every year. Nope. They were all just as surprised as I was that this was a ‘whole thing’. Rest at ease, I never made that mistake again.
What a surprise, I got way the heck off track on my subject again! Focus, Teresa! I want to give you some fun ideas on how to decorate and what to serve at your fun Labor Day picnic next weekend. So, let’s start with the décor.
Table decorations – painted rocks
You most likely know that the basic theme is Red, White & Blue. For table decorations, I like to keep it simple but festive. In the photo in this blog, I covered the table with a black and white buffalo check indoor/outdoor tablecloth. We have a lot of river rocks in our yard, so I picked up 30 of them that were roughly the same size, and then I washed them off with the hose and let them dry in the sun. Then I spray painted 10 red, 10 white and 10 blue. They look cute sprinkled around the center of the table. (Pictured below, with flowers)
Materials used (including links):
30 River Rocks
- Choose approximately 30 river rocks, roughly the same size and shape.
- Wash rocks off with water and allow to dry completely.
- Spray paint one side of rocks; 10 each of red, white and blue spray paint.
- After rocks have dried completely, repeat on the other side of the rocks.
painted mason jar vase
I, once again, used my friend, the mason jar for another decoration. This time I painted with acrylic paint and used it as a vase. I made stripes using painter’s tape and instead of stars, I painted white polka dots using Q-tips. I bought some fresh flowers at the store in red and white, and it looks perfect.
Materials (with links):
16 oz Mason Jar
Red, White & Blue Acrylic Paint
- Use painter’s tape to make a line approximately 2 inches from the bottom of the jar.
- Paint, using red acrylic paint, below the painter’s tape. Allow to dry.
- Remove painter’s tape and apply another line around the jar, approximately an inch above the red paint.
- Paint, using white acrylic paint, below the painter’s tape. Allow to dry.
- Paint the remaining jar, between the white paint and just under the lid ridges, with blue acrylic paint. Allow to dry.
- Dip a Q-tip, lightly in white paint and dab on top of the blue area, randomly, until you like the way it looks.
I’m including a recipe for a cocktail that looks and tastes very refreshing. Basically, it’s the recipe for a Blue Hawaiian, but we need to rename it something patriotic for a Labor Day drink. So we’ll call it a Blue Americana. See recipe below.
- 2 oz white rum
- 2 oz vodka
- 1-1/2 oz blue curacao
- 4 oz pineapple juice
- 1 oz lime juice
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1 oz simple syrup (place equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat over medium and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Cool to room temp)
- Crushed ice, for serving
- Maraschino Cherry
- Place the rum, vodka, blue curacao, pineapple juice, lime juice, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 handfuls of ice and shake until cold
- Strain the drink into a highball or hurricane glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a cherry.
PATRIOTIC FRUIT SKEWERS
Last but not least, you can’t have a picnic without fresh fruit (in my opinion). Instead of serving it in a big bowl, I thought it would be fun to serve it on wooden skewers with a patriotic theme. For the rest of your menu, I would make some hearty sandwiches on a French loaf or sandwich rolls. Mayo, Dijon, pastrami, smoked turkey, sliced cheese, pickles, lettuce and thinly sliced onion. Make them ahead, wrap them individually in some plastic wrap and serve them with some chips, the fruit skewers and your favorite potato or pasta salad. And chocolate chip cookies or brownies are the perfect ending for this picnic. As I write this, my stomach is growling just thinking about it!
Materials for Fruit Skewers (including links):
Strawberries, washed and quartered
Mini-marshmallows or large marshmallows, quartered
- Wash strawberries and blueberries. Take cocktail skewer and layer in red, white & blue theme, with a piece of strawberry, a mini-marshmallow and a blue berry. Then repeat.
I hope this gave you a few fun ideas for your picnic. Have a safe and Happy Labor Day weekend! Celebrate your day!
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