Progress Should Always be a Cause for Celebration.

18 01 2010

To all my American friends, I hope you are having a great Martin Luther King Jr day.

A day to remember the achievements of the legendary Civil Rights activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 who was assassinated in April 1968.

A man who believed in freedom.

First federal holiday of the year (excluding New Years day, celebrated worldwide) and the first of the many holidays that seem to be celebrated just here in the US of A.

Even before we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th (also my grandmothers birthday) we have 

  • Presidents Day – 3rd Monday in January, which also happens to fall the day after Valentines Day but is officially known as Washington’s birthday
  • Memorial Day – last Monday in May, honours the nations dead from Civil War onwards, official start of summer

Then we move into serious Federal Holiday season with

  • Labor Day – 1st Monday in September, celebrates the achievements of workers and the end of summer
  • Columbus Day – 2nd Monday in October, day to remember Chris (bloke credited with discovering America) although not celebrated by Howard Zinn who considers that what the explorer did to the indigenous people that he discovered was nothing short of genocide (chapter 1, People’s History of the United States
  • Veterans Day – Honours veterans of past and present conflicts, normally by a two minute silence at 11th hour on 11th day of 11th month. Which was when the armistice was signed to mark the end of the First World War(or the Great War as it was known) in 1918.

Then there is Thanksgiving (fourth thursday in November) for which we give thanks and marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, for which the retailers give thanks.

And 25th December is another day off for those who celebrate the birth of a small child in Bethlehem which we honour by eating and drinking too much, buying gifts and watching TV.

In the UK we don’t have Federal Holidays, we have Bank Holidays.

Not quite so many as here, only four are celebrated across the whole of the UK (May Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day – 26th December and New Years Day).

But in typical British fashion, we have allocated other days to be Bank Holidays in different parts of the country.

 England and Wales get another four (including Good Friday and Easter Monday), Scotland gets another five (they also have 2nd January off) and Northern Ireland wins with 6 extra days which includes St Patrick’s Day, celebrated worldwide by drunk people who claim that they are Irish whilst spilling their Guinness (something no true Irishman would do).

So why Bank Holiday?

Brilliantly it all comes down to cricket.

In 1871, the Bank Holidays Act was passed by Parliament after a Liberal politician called Sir John Lubbock decided that bank employees should be given more time to play in and attend games between villages. Unsurprisingly this bold decision to give the British public more time off was eagerly seized upon and so now there are two Bank Holidays in May and one at the end of August which are used to hold bbq’s, attend music festivals and generally sit in pub gardens drinking Pimms.

Cricket grounds have not seen a significant increase in crowd size on these days.

But as I celebrate my first MLK day, I raise a glass to a man who did so much to further Civil Rights in the USA. A worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and an inspiration to all.

As we approach the first anniversary of Obama’s inauguration, we should never forget who blazed the trail.




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