Monday, 23 April 2012

St George's Day

Happy St George's Day! 

There are certain debates that come up every year in the calendar, e.g. why do we mess about changing the clocks, but the one that seems to grow stronger every year is - why don't we celebrate St George's Day the way other countries do? - Ireland being the one most commonly referred to, but often you hear the USA and Australia mentioned.

I don't think there is any one single reason, but a combination of factors. The first is that St George's Day is not  a bank holiday. Now that is a real big one, probably the biggest of all. In all of those other countries I mentioned their national day is a holiday as in most countries. I could list countless examples.

There has been a clamour in this country to make St George's Day a bank holiday for many years but the Government has always been reluctant to add an additional day. Not only that but the timing is far from ideal. You will all be aware of the lopsided nature of our 8 bank holidays in this country, that they are clustered into groups, 3 of them over Christmas and New Year, 4 of them between Easter and the end of May, and then a solitary single day at the end of August in a 7 month period otherwise barren of bank holidays.

Quite honestly, the simplest solution would be to move the May Day holiday back a week to April 23rd and keep it on the 23rd unless it's a weekend, when you could have it on the Monday. It would therefore give us the novelty of having a midweek holiday sometimes. Having most of our bank holidays on Mondays is all well and good, but imagine what fun it would be to have a day off on a Wednesday.

That's reason one - reason two? Well I think because we are English, trying to celebrate what we are every day doesn't have the novelty value that celebrating the National day of another country has. When the stars and stripes come out in July or all the shamrocks and pints of Guinness appear in March, people lap it up as it's something out of the ordinary - like any event in the calendar. Halloween, Easter, they all have an identity. Now what identity does St George's Day have - well we have the flag, dragons, and English ale producers do their best to replicate what Guinness can do for the Irish, but somehow it just fails to ignite the passions of the average Englishman or woman.

I could use my discos as a good example here. If I do a disco for St Patrick's Day it's all Irish music. For Halloween it's all the Halloween music. Something different. It stands out from the average Saturday night disco. But if I do a disco for St George's Day - it's all going to be English music and very little different to what I do week in week out during the year as being English and playing to predominantly English music in a culture where the majority of chart music is English, it's nothing out of the ordinary. This is how it was when I supported the Wurzels on St George's Day two years ago. All English music, yes, but it did not really stand out. But the Wurzels were great! And let's face it, everyone came to see them, not me!

What a great St George's Day that was!

How do you make something special that's what you are, what you do, every day of your life?

Hopefully I am getting my point across here. Now I know there are those of you out there who are passionate about St George's Day and want to celebrate but feel frustrated by the complete apathy it seems of most of the English population. They know where they are with St Patrick's Day, they know where they are with the other days I mentioned, but I think quite simply they don't really know what to do for St George's Day.

There is a third argument I have heard mentioned - but I dismiss it. It is the one about people being afraid to celebrate being English as they think it is somehow "racist" or shows support for the BNP or whomever. I am sorry but I totally do not agree with this argument. Being proud of your country is not racist. I don't hear people levelling that argument at the French when they celebrate Bastille Day or any of the others. I think this is a nasty, insidious argument invented by people for their own political ends. I have mentioned it here, because I know it's an angle that has been explored by others, but I completely dismiss it.

So to summarise, my conclusions are as follows.

1) Not a bank holiday and at the wrong time of year to introduce a new one. So move the May one.
2) People want to celebrate St George's Day - they just don't know how to!

If you are celebrating today, I wish you all the best of luck and have a great day.

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