This is one of those things which comes up time and again – we really ought to do something about Bank Holidays. It’s one of those hardy perennials of journalism, drag out the old copy, update it again and you’ll be able to sell it a couple of times a year, no sweat. There does have to be just the leeeetle variation to get it past the subs each time but that’s fine.
Julian Baggini giving us his variation in the key of Spring this year:
Bank holidays are a British idiosyncrasy that some former members of our empire continue to honour. Other countries don’t have more of them, they have public holidays instead. This is not a matter of mere terminology. A public holiday is a shared civic commemoration of something important for the society that celebrates it. These include Bastille Day in France, Liberation Day in Italy and Waitangi Day in New Zealand, which commemorates the signing of the nation’s founding treaty by the British Crown and Māori chiefs.
So, let us change what we’ve got from being days which signify little to those which do lots:
Chosen wisely, public holidays could do important civic work. For decades politicians have been wringing their hands about the failure to create a clear sense of Britishness and Englishness. They might have noticed that the only national day officially celebrated in the UK is St Andrew’s Day in Scotland. Why not give Northern Ireland, England and Wales their own national holidays as well as creating another for the whole of the United Kingdom? Allowing regions to have their own public holidays could help to foster local identities and boost civic pride. Some will be more enthusiastically embraced than others: I imagine Manchester Day would be a huge party. Kent Day would get people thinking more about what they love about the garden of England.
The national conversation about which days to celebrate would itself provoke a valuable civic conversation.
Well, yes, yes it would.
Of course the creation of these holidays would run the risk of being politicised. But a non-partisan commission could be charged with making the decisions, ensuring our new national holidays are unifying, not divisive.
Ah, yes, so, let us devise our list of dates upon which we should all be civic and celebrate.
October 21 of course, Trafalgar Day. This will not piss off the French enough so we should add Waterloo Day as well, 18 June. On the basis that it’s impossible to unify Englishmen too much by pissing off the French more we should add again 26 August and October 25 – Crecy and Agincourt. 16 May would allow us to thumb noses at the Germans as we already do when playing footie.
There aren’t any other Europeans important enough to annoy so the rest of the list is open to discussion. What say you should be added?
William Wallace’s execution date? The shortest war of all time, the bombing of the Sultan of Zanzibar’s Palace? The election of Margaret Thatcher?