diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 06, 2011

Poor old St George. If only his saint's day had been in October he'd have had his own bank holiday years ago. But no, St George's Day is always in April, the month in which Easter usually falls. However patriotic it might be to shift the May Day Holiday to St George's Day, it'll never happen. A St George's Day bank holiday would, I'm afraid, be a wholly impractical change. And here's why.
I'm assuming that the St George's Day bank holiday would be held on the Monday nearest to April 23rd, or on the following day if that's already a bank holiday.

England's bank holidays are concentrated together in two distinct clusters. One cluster is from Easter to May, when there are four bank holidays, and the other's around Christmas and New Year, when there are three. This leaves a single leftover bank holiday, in late August, which barely fills the gaping chasm between the two peaks. Take the bank holidays in 2010 as an example. Not ideal.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecX/NYTotal
2010   B BB B  B    B B B8

2011 and 2012 are different. Thanks to Royals either getting married or getting old, we've gained an extra bank holiday giving a total of 9. Kate and Wills have dropped their extra bank holiday inbetween two consecutive bank holiday Mondays (Apr 25, May 2), additionally giving us two consecutive bank holiday Fridays (Apr 22, Apr 29). Imagine adding a St George's Day bank holiday inbetween too (Tue Apr 26), it'd be completely wasted. As for 2012, the late May bank holiday is being moved to June and doubled up to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. At things stand, next year we have three perfectly-spaced bank holiday Mondays (Apr 9, May 7, Jun 5). Replacing the middle one with April 23rd would knock things distinctly off kilter.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecX/NYTotal
2011   B B BB B  B    B B B9
2012   B BBB B B    B B B9

So if a St George's Day bank holiday were to be introduced, it'd start in 2013.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecX/NYTotal
2013   B B BB  B    B B B8

And in 2013 it'd work OK. Easter Monday on April 1st, St George's Day on April 22nd, and three weeks inbetween, fair enough. But 2014 would be rubbish. Easter's once again late, this time on April 20th, meaning that Easter Monday would be April 21st. But that's the closest Monday to St George's Day, which would be displaced to the following day, Tuesday April 22nd. Add in Good Friday beforehand and this would create a bank holiday glut worse even than Wills and Kate's wedding. You might think that sounds great, but we'd have blown three of the year's eight bank holidays in five days flat.

20132014
Easter MondayMon 1 AprMon 21 Apr
St George's DayMon 22 AprTue 22 Apr
gap inbetween3 weeks1 day

And how about the rest of the decade? There are three decent years with sensible spacing (2015, 2016, 2018). In 2018 we'd even get the St George's Day holiday on the right day. But the other three years aren't looking so good. In 2017 and 2020 we'd get two consecutive bank holiday weekends (which almost never happens with May Day at present). And in 2019 there'd be another late Easter falling on the Monday closest to St George's Day, as in 2014, which'd mean a bank holiday Tuesday. Admittedly that would be Tuesday April 23rd, which would be highly appropriate, but again it'd mean blowing three bank holidays in a single weekend.

201520162017201820192020
Easter MondayMon 6 AprMon 28 MarMon 17 AprMon 2 AprMon 22 AprMon 13 Apr
St George's DayMon 20 AprMon 25 MarMon 24 AprMon 23 AprTue 23 AprMon 20 Apr
gap inbetween2 weeks4 weeks1 week3 weeks1 day1 week

For a broader overview we need to look at a longer period of time. So I've investigated the entire 100 years from 2013 to 2112, and worked out the gap between Easter Monday and a St George's day holiday in each case. Here's my summary.

Gap between Easter Monday and
a St George's Day bank holiday
between 2013
and 2112
1 day17 years out of 100
1 week25 years out of 100
2 weeks24 years out of 100
3 weeks24 years out of 100
4 weeks10 years out of 100

And that's why a St George's Day bank holiday is doomed to impracticability. Easter Day can fall on any date between March 22nd and April 25th - a period which also includes St George's Day. We can't move Easter because it's fixed by the church, not by Parliament. Easter already comes attached with an allocation of two bank holidays. And it turns out that April 23rd falls far too close to Easter in approximately 40% of years, which is wholly unacceptable. By contrast our current May Day holiday, though imperfectly timed, falls within a week of Easter Monday only 3 times this century.

Gap between Easter Monday and
the May Day bank holiday
between 2013
and 2112
1 week3 years out of 100
2 weeks26 years out of 100
3 weeks25 years out of 100
4 weeks20 years out of 100
5 weeks23 years out of 100
6 weeks3 years out of 100

The May Day Bank holiday won't be moving to St George's Day. It might still move to October. But I hope it stays exactly where it is.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecX/NYTotal
St George   B B BB  B    B B B8
October   B BB  B B  B B B8
status quo   B BB B  B    B B B8

Yesterday's May Day vote is now closed. Based on 250 responses, the results are as follows:
1) Should the UK bank holiday in the first week of May be moved? Yes (25%), No (75%)
2) If England's May Day bank holiday is moved, should it go to April or October? St George (27%), late October (73%)


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