Bank Holibobs UK vs National Holibobs USA
This is a condensed version of my various conversations with people back in the UK on Monday May 6th…
Me: Are you having a nice day?
UK peeps: Ooh, yes we are, we’ve been doing lovely things on this Bank Holiday. What did you do?
Me: I went to work and did jobs and stuff.
UK peeps: Where are your two men (hubby and son)?
Me: H is at school and himself is at work.
UK peeps: Why?
Me: Because it’s not a Bank Holiday here.
UK peeps: Do you have Bank Holidays?
Me: Well, sort of…..
And this got me to thinking, again, how similar and yet how different the Bank Holidays in the UK and the National Holidays in the USA are. Here’s a synopsis for you.
USA Holidays and Observances
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Jan 21 Martin Luther King Day
Feb 18 Presidents’ Day
May 27 Memorial Day
Jul 4 Independence Day
Sep 2 Labor Day
Oct 14 Columbus Day (Most regions)
Nov 11 Veterans Day
Nov 28 Thanksgiving Day
Dec 24 Christmas Eve
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 31 New Year’s Eve
Note that, unlike the UK, Boxing Day is not observed in the USA. This is, in particular, a real bummer for Harry – since it is his birthday. And he has always known it as Boxing Day, not December 26th, so when he is asked when his birthday is and he replies with ‘Boxing Day’, I always have to qualify this with the date, and then explain what Boxing Day is all about in the UK. (For those of you who are interested – and it is really very interesting in terms of British history and custom – see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day).
UK Holiday Days
New Year’s Day January 1
Good Friday March 29
Easter Monday April 1
Early May Bank Holiday May 6
Spring Bank Holiday May 27
Summer Bank Holiday August 26
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
Now, Brits, don’t think for a minute ‘hang on, those Americans are getting loads of free days off‘, because let me tell you that the ‘vacation’ days when you work in the USA suck. I hear lots of my American friends talk about working and their 12 days off a year (this is in addition to the national holidays and can increase after you’ve worked somewhere for, like, 100 years), which really isn’t a lot in comparison to the 20 days most UK workers get if they work full time. I know it’s even more in some public sector areas – I’ve known it to be 37 days off a year in addition to Bank Holidays. Wow.
So, this got me to thinking about the cultural differences in the holidays that are observed nationally.
This is what my friend Rachel, back in the UK, told me that she did on the very warm May Bank Holiday Monday:
‘The weather has been glorious for once! Took caravan near Evesham to a site right on the riverbank. Lush. Regatta at Evesham yesterday and 1940s themed May Day with vintage stalls, old cars and caravans and jazzy singers. Went to a lovely cafe with mismatched chairs, Cath Kidston tablecloths, books to borrow and lovely homegrown food. And all on our doorstep. Who knew?‘
Doesn’t that sound very idyllic and British?!
From my youth I remember Maypole dances and floats and street fairs with Britishness oozing out of every shop front. Bangers and mash, fish and chips, cider, beer etc (not all in my youth, I hasten to add, though some may contest that…)
So what has Memorial Day got in store for me in the USA? Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died serving the USA. People come out to honour their veterans and famous Americans by visiting the monuments in Washington and the Memorial Day weekend also marks the beginning of the busy and exciting summer season. Super good news for us is that the pools open! Hooray!
And then, of course, we have 4th July to look forward to with all its fireworks and flags and cheers of independence from the British….oh hang on a minute…….
Anyway, there’s always Labor Day (which seems an odd name for a holiday day – were they being amusing?). Labor Day is observed on the first Monday in September and celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. To take advantage of large numbers of potential customers free to shop, Labor Day has become an important sale weekend for many retailers in the USA, I hear. Some retailers claim it is one of the largest sale dates of the year, second only to the Christmas season’s Black Friday (and I’ve avoided that day once already since being here!).
So, there we go. Things are different again. And things are similar again. Same/different, that’s how it seems every day in this adventure. Always comparing, always contrasting.
I stole this sign from the Facebook page of my friend, Sir Dave Bittner (he’s not really a Sir – I’ve just kind of given him a substitute knighthood out here in the USA).
Anyway, it’s worth sharing because it is wonderfully American and totally extraordinary.