Saturday, September 2, 2006

OK, on the count of three, let’s have a dignified round of applause for Elaine Chao, the nation’s esteemed secretary of the Department of Labor, which may or may not require its employees to dance around with noisemakers and paper hats tomorrow.

It is, after all, Labor Day.

The agency defines the holiday as “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

All right. Yeah. Hot-cha. Three cheers for our intrepid, tenacious, cheerful American workers, who still are contributing to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the nation, though fueled on the questionable coffee and microwaved delights of the typical office.

Party on, workers.

But alas, there is no line of official greeting cards for Labor Day, featuring, say, a worker bee in designer shoes and a tasteful blazer wishing one and all a happy 9-to-5. There are no Labor Day keepsakes available for cubicle or home use.

There are no limited-special-edition Labor Day Barbie dolls, Labor Day Beanie Babies or Labor Day cappuccinos to be had. Ford has yet to come out with an F-150 Labor Day pickup truck with Eddie Bauer interior or Serta with a pillow-topped Labor Day mattress or Breyer’s with a Labor Day celebration sherbet.

There is no Labor Day holiday tree with Labor Day ornaments — miniature tool belts and keyboards and ergonomic chairs would be ideal — though if Hallmark started selling a pre-wired, light-up version in a nice commemorative box, it would sell out.

To be fair, Hallmark does have a line of cards and knickknacks for National Boss Day, which is Oct. 16, so better start your shopping now.

The cards mostly have tasteful oak leaves or congenial coffee cups on them, with a nice ode to bowing and scraping contained within. Hallmark did not invent this holiday, contrary to popular belief. National Boss Day was inaugurated in 1958 by one Patricia Bays Haroski, an Illinois secretary who wanted to honor her boss, who also happened to be her father. We can live with that.

But back to poor old Labor Day, which does not warrant oak leaves or even odes, apparently. Maybe we could shorten it to something snappy, something more conducive to rhyme. How about La Da? Of course. La Da. Happy La Da. Have a fun and glorious La Da. For that really festive touch, it could be La-Di-Da.

Now, La Da and La-Di-Da might not sit so well with the Department of Labor, which would be forced to become De La, or maybe De La La, as the mood strikes. Perhaps we should consult with Secretary Chao.

In the meantime, we are still stuck with Labor Day. Its status as an also-ran in the holiday department remains right on par with that of Arbor Day, also bare of the celebratory frivolity that is dear to our hearts.

So here we sit, no cards or holiday trees, with just a paltry few Labor Day festivity alternatives to our name.

We can:

(A) Get in the car and join the 30 million other travelers with nothing better to do in the next 24 hours.

(B) Go to a sale.

(C) Go into denial that summer is over.

(D) Eat something fattening.

But wait. The restless spirit of marketing never sleeps. Someone is out there advocating true holiday status for Labor Day whether we like it or not.

“Labor Day is for most people the ‘unofficial’ ending of the season,” says Home Works Plus, which sells discounted furnishings. “Millions of Americans want to say goodbye in style with an unforgettable party.”

What’s this? Are coordinated Labor Day tablecloths and matching napkins and centerpieces in the offing? Perhaps.

The Connecticut-based company suggests a “Day of Laziness” party in which family and guests “declare a one-day, sit-down strike,” to be conducted in the immediate vicinity of a big buffet, plus pillows, hammocks, mats, lawn blankets and lounge chairs. The company also suggests a “Division of Labor” party, in which guests bring potluck goodies and a prize is awarded for the dish that takes the least amount of effort.

But that Labor Day holiday tree may be just around the corner.

The energetic New York-based party supplier Make Parties advises, “We have Labor Day-themed stickers, superballs, tattoos, pencils, inflatables, crayons, coloring books, mini stuffed animals, yo-yos, paddle ball, gliders, figures, lip gloss, jewelry, finger puppets, hand puppets, backpacks, plastic animals, stretch animals, squirt animals, treasure chests, die-cast cars, trucks and planes.”

Who knew?

The company also advises conscientious Labor Day hosts and hostesses to “greet their guests wearing a silly Labor Day hat”; sing patriotic songs; distribute Labor Day loot bags; and serve barbecue, apple pie and bourbon balls to the revelers.

Well, that’s a start. Have a fun — and glorious — La Da.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and loot bags for The Washington Times. Contact her at 202/636-3085 or

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