Celebrating a Traditional Day; Why I Miss the UK

1 04 2011

Not Part of Tradition...yet

One of the many things that change when you move to a new country is the observing of traditions that have always formed part of your life. Pancake Day, August Bank Holiday Monday, Boxing Day, Comic Relief – all of these mean very little to anyone who doesn’t live in the UK.

Of course by moving to America, I have come to a land fiercely proud of their heritage with events such as Independence Day, March Madness,Thanksgiving and Black Friday being important parts of their cultural calendar. In choosing to live here, I have discarded my own cultural background and am happy to become part of the Land of the Free – for me the American Dream is to finally understand the fuss about Superbowl Sunday.

But April 1st will always have a place in my heart.

In the UK, the end of the financial year on 31st March is marked by a day of celebration on the 1st April. Known as the Day of Presumptive Apology, it allows business leaders and elected representatives twenty-four hours to apologise for anything that they might do during the rest of the year, thus absolving themselves of the need to make any future statements concerning the running of the country and/or any financial irregularities that may occur.

The tradition actually dates back to the Acts of Union in 1707. Realising that some parts of the country were probably not that keen on being a United Kingdom, lawmakers allocated April 1st as the only day in the year when nobody could be blamed for anything. Since it was added to the unwritten constitution on a piece of parchment known as the Treaty of Ineptitude, it has been adhered to with all the pomp and ceremonial pageantry that the UK is quite rightly famous for.

This celebration of inevitable incompetence begins with the Feast of St. Halfwit. Bakers across the country will produce the traditional Crusty Bloomer, bread that has been soaked in beer and will be eaten with cheese and sardines (giving a nod to the Nordic influence that founded the country). From the break of dawn to mid-afternoon the streets of the United Kingdom will be filled with Halfwits, who will use this public holiday to apologise to anyone they meet.

When the law was originally passed in 1707, it was the duty of the Monarch to address the nation and make the noise of a duck. However as the Prime Minister is now the representative of a ruling monarch, April 1st is now firmly in the hands of the government. Wearing the ceremonial Coat of Orungutang (a Dutch sailor who helped William of Orange to tie his shoelaces), the Prime Minister will stand at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London, and apologise to the nation through the art of mime. Once this has been done, he will mount his battle ostrich and return to the Houses of Parliament to be publicly flogged by Black Rod and then paraded through the streets wearing only a pair of paper underpants.

For business leaders, the ceremony is slightly less formal.

They are required by law to stand on street corners handing out portions of shepherds pie and cups of tea to passers-by, whilst standing on one leg and pleading for forgiveness for acts that they assume they will commit during the financial year.

What is great about April 1st is that, despite so many traditions falling into disuse or being deemed politically incorrect, it is still celebrated with the same enthusiasm that saw its creation in 1707. And that is a comforting thought.

Presumptive Apology may not be something that most American politicians or business leaders may be familiar with, but for this Englishman the traditions of the Mother Country will still be observed on the days in question.

And I am not going to apologise for that. Sorry.




One response

1 04 2011
KC Donovan


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