diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Today's grim fact: If you live in the UK that's half of this year's bank holidays gone already, and there's still two-thirds of the year to go.

England, Wales & Scotland suffer from a miserly ration of public holidays. There are 261(ish) non-weekend days each year but we only get eight of these as bank holidays. And hey, we're lucky to get eight, it used to be far less...

Evolution of bank holidays in England & Wales
pre 19th-century: Good Friday and Christmas Day [Total: 2]
1871: + Easter Monday + Whit Monday (50 days after Easter) + first Monday in August + Boxing Day [Total: 6]
1971: Whitsun holiday moved to last Monday in May; August bank holiday moved to last Monday in August [Total: still 6]
1974: + New Year's Day [Total: 7]
1978: + first Monday in May [Total: 8]
 
Evolution of bank holidays in Scotland
pre 19th-century: none [Total: 0]
1871: New Year's Day, Good Friday, the first Monday in May, the first Monday in August, Christmas Day [Total: 5]
1973: + day after New Year's Day [Total: 6]
1974: + Boxing Day [Total: 7]
1978: + last Monday in May [Total: 8]

But perhaps more worrying is how appallingly spaced our eight bank holidays are. In Scotland half of the eight days fall in just one fortnight over Christmas and New Year. In England and Wales things are very slightly better, but we still nudge two days at Easter right up close to two in May for no obvious reason. And then we suffer a seven month bank holiday desert with just one little August hiatus roughly in the middle. Once this month is over, it's a bloody long way to Christmas. Yes, we have it much worse than anywhere else...

Comparison of public holidays in a selection of countries, 2006
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecX/NYTotal
Eng & W   • •• •      • • •8
Scotland   • •      • • • •8
N Ireland  • •• •     • • •10
Germany   • •• •     • • •9
France   • • •  • • • •11
Austria  • •• •  • • •13
Spain • •• • •   • •• •• •15
N Zealand • • •      • • • •11
S Africa  • • •   • • •12
USA     • •9
X/NY covers the Christmas and New Year period
Holidays for Spain are those for Madrid
Holidays for New Zealand are those for Auckland/Wellington

Actually Germany only has it very slightly better than us, but the French have done well with at least one day off every month from April to August. Austria and Spain are the best countries for slackers, and they even manage to pad out the autumn months with a succession of refreshing public holidays. New Zealand and South Africa have a bit of a pile-up in April and at Christmas, but they still eke out their remaining days better than we do. And, who'd have thought, full marks to the United States for the best laid-out public holidays of all. Just nine days off, but at oh such sensible intervals. Maybe they've just been lucky in that their nationally-celebrated anniversaries spread out well throughout the year, or maybe it's that Americans don't go over the top with trifling Christian festivals such as Christmas and Easter.

So, please, can we in the UK have a few more bank holidays to redress the balance? We don't need any more at the turn of the year, and please nothing else in April or May (sorry St George, and no thanks to Europe Day). But early July would be nice, and maybe sometime in October, and... actually, would the first Monday of every month be asking too much?


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