Tomorrow is what is known as a “bank holiday” here in Ireland, which means most people, especially I suppose, those who work at banks, have the day off. When I asked friends and co-workers why we have tomorrow off, the summary of answers I got basically amounted to “because we do.” And that’s fine. I’m not going to question a Monday where I don’t have to get up to my alarm.
But this is a definite departure from what I am used to regarding holidays in the States. In America, all of our holidays are holidays for a reason:
- January 1 – To celebrate the New Year.
- Martin Luther King Day – To honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Presidents’ Day – Most think this is to honor all American Presidents, but technically, the only Pres. officially being honored is our first, George Washington.
- Memorial Day – To honor our war dead.
- Independence Day – To celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from British rule.
- Labor Day – To celebrate the achievements of workers and the labor movement.
- Veteren’s Day – To honor veterans of American wars (sadly, fewer and fewer Americans now get this day off).
- Thanksgiving Day – Kind of self-explanatory, to give thanks.
- Christmas Day – well, of course.
And there are certain things one is supposed to do on each of these holidays. On MLK Day you should volunteer your time, on Independence Day you watch fireworks, on Memorial Day you lay wreaths at the graves of your family’s war dead, on Thanksgiving you eat turkey, etc. Of course, people don’t necessarily do these things. Mostly our holidays are excuses to go shopping or have a picnic and very little thought is given to whom or what we are honoring or celebrating. But there is indeed a reason behind each of these days.
In Ireland, other than New Year’s Day, all the named holidays have religious connotations: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day. And then there are these bank holidays – the first monday in May, June, August and October. Four days off for no apparent reason where I’m not expected to do anything other than not go into work. If I want to volunteer, I’ll volunteer. If I want to have a picnic, I’ll have a picnic. If I want to watch fireworks… well, that one may be kind of hard. But the point is, there isn’t any prescribed activity that I am supposed to take part in tomorrow so I don’t have to end up feeling guilty for not doing it. The time is mine to pass as I please.
They could be on to something here.