What’s the deal with public holidays?


I hope everyone had a good Freedom Day this Friday. I bet you are now gearing for Worker’s Day. Some of the luckier ones of you even get a cheeky extra day off on Monday. During this important time, maybe you have asked yourself; “Why do I get all these days off?” I am pretty sure none of you have actually asked this but, let’s just pretend.

It is difficult to point out when exactly someone decided that taking day long breaks in order to celebrate “whatever” was a good idea? The according to the always reliable sources of the internet, public holidays are an evolution of bank holidays. These whimsical days spawned from unsurprisingly religious holidays. In the early nineteenth century the Bank of England decided that it would close down on 33 saint days (and other religious festivals). Having total control over people’s livelihood is quite taxing so the banks deserve a break. As the years went on however, this number was cut down to four. Bank holidays were then officially introduced after this point by the Bank Holidays act of 1871 (Unfortunate, 33 days off on top of public holidays would be pretty sweet). Anyway, this meant that within the four countries under the United Kingdom the banks would be closed during this time (except Scotland, because Scotland is best). The reason they were called bank holidays instead just public holidays was to sound more important. Basically, a message saying “Hey! The banks are closed so don’t bother doing anything today. Especially if you run a business. Go home and do nineteenth century things.” Truly the greatest time of our humanity. As time went on these more important days started to also be considered holidays.

Let’s bring it back to South Africa. As a sovereign nation it is expected of us to have these public holidays. It was something that the Dutch and British brought over as they were mercilessly taking over a country that didn’t belong to them. Back in the day on the first Monday of September there was a public holiday called Settlers Day. Good thing that went away in the 1970s. We also had to have a holiday in order to celebrate the Queen of England’s birthday. I mean, free day off but that isn’t our queen. Once South Africa became a democracy in 1994 it was decided that new public holidays were needed. The first of these being Freedom Day. This day is meant to be a celebration of the fact we became a democracy. The war was won on that day but we are still fighting. That is why we rest on this day. To remember our victories and rest for the battles ahead. Then you have Workers Day which is this coming Tuesday. This is an international public holiday that takes place on the 1st of May. This holiday was birthed from struggle. It is meant to be a celebration of labourers and the struggles they went through to gain the rights they deserve. The 1st of May was chosen in order to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. During that affair there were massive strikes in order to get an eight-hour workday. The strikes worked and Workers Day acts as another day of victory where we are lying in our pajamas all day.

That is basically the four, one, one on public holidays. Whoever decided that we get days off on non-weekends is a saint. These days are meant to celebrate our victory over oppression. So, let us spend our victory by giving more money to those that oppress. Go off, have fun, and celebrate these days that are meant to symbolise, uh, something.

January 01       New Year’s Day: You’re hanging so you deserve a day off.
March 21          Human Right’s Day: Let us celebrate our right to sleep late.
March 30          Good Friday: Jesus took a 3-day sleep on this day. Its chill if you wanna as well.
April 02             Family Day: The day where you tell your shit kids to be quiet.
April 27             Freedom Day: It is so nice we have the freedom to watch DSTV.
May 01              Labour Day: People worked hard for this. Let us rest in their honour.
June 16            Youth Day: Kids deserve to rest from all the bugs they have been eating.
August 09         National Women’s Day: You would be tired to if the patriarchy kept oppressing you.
September 24  Heritage Day: Heritage is somehow related to braais. Yeah…
December 16   Day of Reconciliation: A day to take a break from the white people ‘apologizing.”
December 17   Public Holiday: See above
December 25   Christmas Day: Let us celebrate our true ruler capitalism. Jesus is in there somewhere too.
December 26   Day of Goodwill: Capitalism is so big it gets two public holidays.

By Jack Van der Merwe

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