I promised in my first post to write about areas where we Americans might consider doing things ‘the Irish way.’ Given The Economist has now reported that Ireland has the highest quality of life in the world – well ahead of our thirteenth place finish – I should get started!
One area where Ireland beats the USA hands down is on Monday holidays. Other than Memorial and Labor days, all other Monday American holidays (Martin Luther King, Presidents, Patriots, Columbus, Veterans, etc.) are not universally celebrated by government and business. Rather than making for a long weekend with family and friends, American Monday holidays have become juggling acts, where kids are out of school yet many parents are required to work. And for those Americans working in retail there never seems to be a holiday break.
In Ireland, Monday holiday weekends are true long weekends for virtually everyone in the country, including those working in retail. Six times a year Ireland has what is called a ‘Bank Holiday Weekend’ with Monday the holiday. These weekends are better than the ‘long holiday weekend’ in the States because……most everyone gets off the entire weekend, including the Saturday. Outside of retail, everything is closed on all three days. In retail, shops that are usually closed on Sundays but open on Saturdays – car dealerships, hair dressers, dry cleaners, opticians, florists, bicycle shop, sporting goods stores, kitchen stores, etc. – not only close on the Monday holiday but also close on the Saturday of these six weekends, making for a full three day shut down.
There is joy and excitement in the air all weekend long because virtually everyone in the country is enjoying three days off.
In the States, the local retailer in pursuit of the almighty dollar would consider the long weekend an opportunity to do extra business. In Ireland the not-so-mighty Euro plays second fiddle to the almighty holiday.
We Americans would be better off if all businesses – including retail – were closed for a three day weekend six times a year.
Here’s why these holiday’s are called ‘Bank Holidays’ instead of descriptive names like President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, etc. For centuries, there used to be literally dozens of holidays celebrated by different localities around the UK, of which Ireland was then a part. Most holidays were named after the Saints of choice for that locality. Banks, being good local citizens, closed on all of these many local holidays, making inter-city banking commerce difficult. Some 100 years ago, in order to arrive at a consistent holiday schedule throughout the entire UK, the government established six Monday holidays – and all in months with decent weather! And in one of the earliest demonstration of ‘political correctness’, the holidays were not give Saint names but were simply called ‘Bank Holidays’ so as not to offend the followers of any particular saint.