Diamond Geezer also makes the point that we're essentially stuck with this scheme as we can't move Easter because it's fixed by the church. Err ... why not? We moved the late May holiday away from Whitsun which is also fixed by the church. And we don't actually celebrate May Day but pick the first Monday in May. So why can we not move (or ignore) Easter?
I suggest an alternative scheme for our public holidays, viz:
- New Years Day (1 January)
- Spring Equinox (21 March)
- St George's Day (23 April)
- May Day (1 May)
- Summer Solstice (21 June)
- August Holiday (last Monday in August)
- Autumn Equinox (21 September)
- Christmas Day (25 December)
- Boxing Day (26 December)
Note that I propose we keep the actual days and not the nearest Monday, although obviously where any of these falls on a weekend they would be moved to the next available working day. Note too that I have not stooped to include red letter days from ethnic minority traditions.
In the provinces of the UK St George's Day could be replaced by their "national day": St David in Wales (1 March), St Andrew in Scotland (30 November), St Patrick in Northern Ireland (17 March).
This has, to my mind, several advantages. It spreads out our holidays a bit better. We get one extra day bringing us more into line with western Europe and other English speaking countries where the average is more like 10 or 12 public holidays annually. It also takes the calendar away from the religious focus and returns it to the actual solar cycle without making it too overtly pagan.
It also presents some other options:
- We could keep Good Friday, if desired which would generally slot in between the Spring Equinox and St George's Day. I see no logic, sacred or secular, for retaining Easter Monday, although this could be retained in preference to Good Friday.
- If desired the late August holiday might move back to the first Monday in August (as it still is in Scotland) from where it was moved in 1965, thus better harmonising the UK's public holidays.
- To be logical Christmas should relocate to the Winter Solstice (21 December). However given how entrenched Christmas now is in the collective psyche I can see this not being acceptable. Maybe we should scrap Boxing Day and move that to the Winter Solstice? No, that's a really bad idea because it will give us three separate holidays within 2 weeks (Solstice, Christmas Day and New Years Day) thus we risk everything shutting down completely for two weeks rather than the current week. So Christmas has to be retained as is, which also helps the balance of holidays between sacred and secular.
I still see one problem with this scheme though. There is still a long (3 month) gap between the autumn Equinox and Christmas, at a time when we arguable need a break. Trafalgar Day (21 October) has been mooted as a possible public holiday. I personally don't like this as I feel we ought to stay clear of celebrating the military and I'd rule out Armistice Day (11 November) for the same reason (see also my dislike of Remembrance Day). Equally Guy Fawkes Day risks being interpreted as celebrating terrorism rather that its defeat. Halloween I would also rule out as it would inevitably perpetuate that annoying American import: trick or treat. Perhaps we ought to celebrate Harvest Festival (which need not, of course, be religious but remind us where our food comes from) in mid- to late-October?
Anyone got any better ideas?