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Monday, 29 May 2017

The (Bank Holi)Day Today

Today, 29th May, is a bank holiday in the United Kingdom.

In the US I'm aware that it is Memorial Day, a day of memory for those veterans who died during their military service - distinct and separate from Veteran's Day (11th November), which is for all veterans. Over here, though, the holiday is a little less obvious. It doesn't have a snappy name. Just Spring Bank Holiday.

It began as a holiday on trial in 1965, and was made statutory - signed off by the crown - in 1971. It was brought in to replace Whit Monday, celebrated the day after Pentecost, which is in turn celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday. Which is variable, every year. Yes, calendar and diary makers hate it.

It's not a public holiday - it's a bank holiday. The two are quite different. Specifically a public holiday can also be a bank holiday, insofar as they are culturally long-observed holiday periods, whereas a bank holiday can be discretionary and arbitrary. The government can literally decide they want a day to be a bank holiday, put it by the crown, and then - boom, July 14th is a bank holiday. (Bastille Day, see?)

While banks and financial institutions are closed on bank holidays, no other business has a legal obligation to be closed - though many are, especially if they have daily financial dealings. Doctor's surgeries are closed, as are many public buildings.


Well, today there's eight bank holidays in England - New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, today, August Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. There's more in other areas of the United Kingdom - Scotland gets St Andrew's Day, Ireland gets St Patrick's Day.

There used to be more. Thirty-three to be specific - and they were all saint's days. There's a full calendar of saints that covers just about every single day of the year. To make the holidays more tied to business dealings (and reduce them) and remove the emphasis on religious idolatry was perhaps a smart move, as even in 1834 England was becoming rather secular. Given that a significant proportion of the population of the country isn't saint-worshipping, that's just fine.

Where am I going with this?

I didn't have a plan, really. The whole notion is just interesting. I suppose, though - the new tradition, the new way of doing things, is just an improvement on what we had before. Because "That's The Way It's Always Been" is a pretty terrible reason to do...anything. Sooner or later, our traditions will have become the things that used to be our traditions. History marches on, and the world we are moving into becomes the world we are moving out of given sufficient years.

Very soon, there may be a tectonic shift in the path this country has taken since Margaret Thatcher. Or there may be more of the same.

I really hope that there will be a change. That we will move into a new world.

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