Who Invented the Weekend? (Invention Timeline Explained)

How about we play a little game? I mention an invention of human beings, and you ask yourself if you’ve ever thought of where such a thing comes from. Ready to play? Here we go: the weekend. Those who have ever wondered where the weekend comes from, raise your hand. You’re probably not raising your hand, are you? That’s how much the weekend has been integrated into our daily lives. If you’re raising your hand… well done.

It’s so weird to think that there was a time without the concept of the weekend — and when I talk about the concept of the weekend, I mean the idea of the weekend being days of rest. After all, that’s what separates the weekend from the rest of the week! Are you interested in figuring out where it comes from? Let’s dive into the creation of the weekend, and add a little timeline.

Who invented the weekend?

As far as the inventor of the weekend rest is concerned, that distinction goes to Henry Ford, of all people. He’s the one who set the precedent as far as the 40-hour work week is concerned.

The weekend’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Judaism
    The religion that created the sabbath, the day of rest

    You’ve probably already heard of the sabbath being a day of rest, often known as the seventh day. Judaism started the trend, and many others picked up the idea.

  • Constantine I
    The Roman Emperor Constantine I made Sunday a day of rest

    While Judaism has long held the sabbath as a day of rest, it wasn’t a civil decree until the Roman Emperor Constantine I made Sunday a day of rest. He decreed that all judges and city people and craftsmen were to rest during Sundays.

  • Australians
    Campaigned for the 40-hour work week during the 1850s

    There was an argument that working in the Australian heat for too long was detrimental to their health, and so they campaigned for a 40-hour work week.

  • Henry Ford
    Set the precedent for the 40-hour work week.

    Unlike the Melbourne and Sydney stonemasons, no one else got to enjoy the 40-hour work week and the development of the weekend until over half a century later. Henry Ford introduced the 40-hour work week for his workers.

When was the weekend invented?

The weekend was (technically) invented around 1926, though there have been campaigns to create the 40-hour work week during the 1850s.

A brief history of the weekend

It’s a little odd to think about the weekend as a human construct, similar to time itself. However, both are undoubtedly human constructs, and are just ways to help us be more efficient with our lives. As far as the weekend goes, it’s all about introducing the concept that Saturday and Sunday are to be treated as days of rest. Of course, since we’re deep diving into the origins of the weekend, we’ll have to talk about why the weekend — or at least Sunday — was considered a day of rest.

It mainly lies with Judaism and later on Christianity, which held the sabbath holy, as a day of rest. Some saw it as Saturday, and others as Sunday. Either way, the concept of the weekend being treated as days of rest came with religion. The Roman Emperor Constantine I even held an imperial decree that Sunday was to be treated as a day of rest. In essence, he started the concept of Sunday being a rest day through the law.

Fast forward to the 1850s, and the Australian Stonemasons were campaigning to shorten the work week, specifically due to how difficult it was to work in the heat. They wanted 40-hour work weeks and campaigned for it. They didn’t know it, but they were fighting for what would be known as the weekend. It wasn’t until 1926 when Henry Ford introduced the idea of 40-hour work weeks for his staff. The concept of the weekend as days of rest spread from there, and the rest is history.

The weekend timeline

  1. 2000 BC
    The concept of sabbath as a holy day

    As far as 2000 BC, people were aware of the idea of the sabbath as a day of rest thanks to Judaism and Christianity.

  2. 321 AD
    The Sunday law decree

    Roman Emperor Constantine I, after being converted to Christianity, decided that Sunday was to be treated as a day of rest for workers. He technically invented half the weekend!

  3. 1850s
    Lobbying for the full weekend

    Australian stonemasons were lobbying for a 40-hour weekend, unaware that they almost invented the concept of the weekend!

  4. 1926
    The creation of the full weekend

    With Henry Ford’s introduction of the 40-hour work week, the concept of the weekend as a whole was started. Eventually, many other companies took 40-hour work weeks as the norm, and it’s persisted to this day.

Where was the weekend invented?

The concept of the weekend (the 40-hour work week) was invented in Detroit, Michigan, United States. 

The importance of the weekend

  • Come on, it’s the weekend!

    A lot of people see the weekend as a time to rest or party, and that wouldn’t have happened without Henry Ford introducing the proper 40-hour work week. Saturday and Sunday both have a reputation as days where you can kick back and relax as a result.

  • A timeless concept

    It’s not going to be easy to make changes now that people are entirely comfortable with the concept of the weekend. At best, the work week would potentially be made even smaller, but it depends on your work.

  • A seamless part of society

    Be honest, you’ve never thought of the concept of the weekend and who might have started it, have you? It’s understandable, since it’s practically a foundation of modern society. The idea of the weekend is pretty much as set in stone as the idea of the week itself.

  • A surprisingly logical choice

    At the time, the weekend was created as a means of making it easier for the workforce, while at the same time making things easier for the economy. After all, the weekend is when people spend most of their time going out and making purchases, so it keeps the economy healthy.

The weekend by the numbers

  • 2There are 2 days in the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that the weekend consists of 2 days, but I wanted to see if you were paying attention.
  • 48The 48 hours of continuous rest is important, as it ended up kickstarting the economy. While people worked less with the introduction of the 40-hour work week, they ended up making more purchases during the weekend. It was a way of allowing money to circulate, which in turn keeps the economy as healthy as possible.
  • 1932It wasn’t until 1932 when the US finally adopted the 5-day work system. At the time, the US was suffering from the Great Depression, and the 5-day work system was their attempt at fighting back against the unemployment rates. It was a good decision, as the 40-hour work week undoubtedly helped.
  • 1960Around the 1960s, there was talk about making the weekend even longer, citing technological advancements as the reason why it will eventually be possible to further tweak the weekend. In the present, people are still talking about potentially limiting the work week.

Five facts about the weekend

  • The 7 planets

    It’s one thing to talk about the concept of the weekend, and another to talk about the concept of the week in its entirety. It’s said that the concept arose in Babylon over 4,000 years ago, where the 7 planets were said to influence the creation of the seven-day week.

  • The holy day

    Even before the concept of the 40-hour work week became commonplace, Sunday was considered a day of rest and workers were expected to rest during those days. It’s a law that started with the Sunday law by Roman Emperor Constantine I.

  • The 4-day work week

    Did you know that Iceland is one of the few places in the world that uses the 4-day work week? That means their weekend is a grand total of 3 days. That’s a little hard to imagine for anyone used to the typical weekend.

  • The Maori New Zealand weekend

    The Maori call Saturday Rahoroi — translating to washing day. During Saturdays, they wash their clothing, so they have clean clothes for church on Sunday.

  • Competing philosophies

    The funny thing about the weekend is how it can be brought down to two competing foundations. The first is the foundation of rest, and the second is the foundation of partying and making the most of your time. It’s strange, since they’re both right, yet they both go in different directions!

FAQs about the weekend

  • Why do so many people go to church during Sundays?

    It’s mainly due to the religion keeping Sundays (or the sabbath) holy. It’s the reason why people often hear mass during Sundays, and other religions have taken to using Sunday as the primary day of worship. There are some that believe Saturday takes precedence over Sunday as a day of worship, but that’s diversity for you.

  • Do you think a permanent long weekend is possible?

    The 4-day work week is more than possible. In fact, Iceland has the 4-day work week as a routine, so they have a 3-day weekend!

  • What would you recommend I do during the weekend?

    If it were up to me, I’d recommend you take the weekend to rest and brace yourself for the next work week. The cool thing is, resting can mean plenty of different things depending on the situation. Some see it as actually resting, whereas others see it as going out to party. So long as you have fun, go for it!

  • Did Henry Ford seriously invent the weekend?

    Yes, I know that sounds strange, but he absolutely did — at least the concept of the weekend where both Saturday and Sunday are rest days. He was pretty smart about it, too, thinking of both his workers and the economy at once. The man was undoubtedly a genius in more ways than one!

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