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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

TIME FOR SOME BRITISH NATIONAL HOLIDAYS? I agree with Linda Colley's call for happier holidays, or actually for public holidays at all. Although she gives an explanation about the decline of national holidays I don't think it really works. The lessening of the religious and national consensus, and an increase in a self-critical and even self-destructive national mood, doesn't really explain it. For example, I'm in Germany at the moment and even though religion is treated with far less respect in the public sphere than it is in the UK, there are nonetheless heaps of religious holidays, and these are real ones too where shops, schools and offices are closed. Another example is the national holiday. Whereas Germany may be infamous for wrestling with its historical guilts, that doesn’t prevent it from having the Tag der deutschen Einheit, the day of German unity, as a proper holiday including some rudimentary celebrations.
One day that I think everyone in Britain could agree on as a national holiday would surely be Remembrance Day; it is of course a proper public holiday in France and Belgium. Ok, so that wouldn't be a happy holiday, but it's a start. I think the Queen's Birthday should be a public holiday. Although this wouldn't be entirely uncontroversial what with those republican types, most would surely be pleased about a day off. After all I can't remember any stories from last year's Jubilee celebrations about anti-monarchists breaking into their offices to work over the holidays as an act of protest. I wonder what other options there are. I will go and research old holidays and have a look if they could be given any modern meaning and I'll post a complete guide to public holidays to be made. Of course we should also invent a few new ones perhaps. Colley suggests a "New Citizens Day" on which we could acknowledge the results of immigration and imprint it into the national psyche that this is something to celebrate rather than to be treated exclusively as a problem. That's a good idea to start with. Perhaps we can find a better title than "New Citizens Day" though. That sounds like something half-baked that escaped from the innards of a New Labour think-tank.

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