Friday, March 04, 2011

In Praise of .... May Day (and other Public Holidays)

May Day has a long historical significance as a festival; pagan celebration and marker of workers' rights are just two.

The Government is proposing to 'move' May Day - or rather REmove May Day - so that, ostensibly, the tourist season is extended.

There are a number of arguments to be had around this: others, far more articulate than I, will make a case about protecting the one rare day that acknowledges the struggle of workers to unionise and protect workers' rights against exploitation.

I'd like to take a slightly different approach and look at how the Public Holidays work in the UK - and especially England - at the moment.

Why has May Day come under attack again? Simplistically, May Day isn't popular amongst Tories, but it's more to do with the accident of how Easter has fallen this year that has highlighted the perceived problem.

Easter is 'late' this year: this, combined with TBRW* holiday, means that there are FOUR public holidays within 11 days (effectively FOUR within 7 working days). Given the long gap between New Year and Easter, one can understand that this isn't really a very even spread of Public Holidays. Equally, it is a LONG time between the August Public Holiday and Christmas.

But is it really fair to lay the blame at the door of May Day?

How come NO-ONE wants to bite the bullet of fixing Easter? It can wander around anywhere between the third week in March and the start of the final week in April.

In that context, how the hell would offering St George's Day (23rd April) in England possibly help alleviate that mad glutch of Public Holidays in the spring? In that respect, offering a date in October for a Public Holiday is far more sensible (though I feel a little iffy about Trafalgar Day).

To my mind, the issue is more one about Public Holidays per se than 'moving' one (or 'fixing' Easter). The UK has a bad rep for having so few Public Holidays - why not ADD an October date to the calendar?! (I mean, next year 2012 we get a Public Holiday for the Queenie's Diamond Jubilee --- not an extra one, but just shufting the Spring Bank Holiday aka poor old Whitsun).

I'm not especially thrilled with the reasons why certain days are deemed Public Holidays for sure: I'm not religious, I'm not a Royalist, and I'm pretty ambivalent about celebrating 'victory' over other countries in wars. That's probably why preserving May Day, Worker's Day, Labour Day, DOES mean a lot to me.

But we need Public Holidays: I'd like there to be a campaign to fix Easter for Holiday purposes, and by all means bang in national holidays (I'd be celebrating Shakespeare personally, rather than St George, but that's me), but let's instead think about the logic of what Public Holidays can do for worker energy and moral by ADDING in one for later in the year.

I'll be controversial and suggest Halloween :)

*aka The Bloody Royal Wedding


Neil said...

The best thing about Trafalgar Day is it's my dad's birthday.

But instead of that how about a Green Marx Day on 2nd October when we could celebrate Graham Green and Groucho Marx and my birthday.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...


Jane Henry said...

I don't much care which May Day Bank Holiday they take away, so long as they only have one. A bank holiday in October to coincide with half term would be helpful to parents (though I realise that isn't the only consideration!) Two bank holidays in May is bonkers. And this year with the Easter shenagigans. Kids go back to school on Tues after Easter (except older two have inset, fixed before the BRW) so they go to school for two days, then have four days off... Luckily eldest not doing GSCEs this year. Would be v pissed off if she was!

Jane Henry said...

PS I don't have any objection to it being on Trafalgar Day as it is an important part of our history, but I think Neil's suggestion is awesome!!

Skuds said...

The ide of moving May Day to April is the silliest part of the whole plan - a lot of the time that would be right on top of Easter.

Fixing Easter is by far the best idea, make it fit in with school terms. Maybe have to rename it, since the church is unlikely to change its dates.

So few people actually celebrate Easter anyway I don't see why it should be a holiday. You could even split it up and move on of the public holidays to March/April and the other to September/October.

Let the few devout christians who want to spend all G.Fri in church take a day off like Hindus, Muslims & Sikhs would have to do for their holy days.

So how about moving one of the Easter days to become a Tory holiday (Thatcher's birthday) and then see which public holiday is most popular?

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

So how about moving one of the Easter days to become a Tory holiday (Thatcher's birthday) and then see which public holiday is most popular?

Oh god my head hurts at the thought! Shudder!