It's Columbus Day today, one of those nebulous quasi-holidays they have over here where the schools and banks are closed, there is no rubbish collection or post but other things seem to carry on as normal - eg. my husband is still expected to go to work, the boys' swimming lessons continue, etc., etc. On our trip to the playground this morning, I spotted legions of women whose other halves were clearly at work, desperately trying to entertain their kids for yet another day after the weekend.
The USA has quite a few Monday bank holidays. Some of them, like Memorial Day and Labor Day (marking the beginning and end of summer), are widely observed, but many of them seem semi-official - for instance Martin Luther King Day, in mid-January, and Presidents' Day in mid-February. Not every employer lets their staff take them off, and even if you do have the day off, not everything is open. For example, we were at the Bronx Zoo this weekend, and I noticed that it is only ever closed on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King day. OK, I can see that possibly this makes sense; it's the coldest time of year and all the animals will probably be huddled indoors somewhere drinking hot chocolate. But then again, what ARE you supposed to do on a bank holiday Monday in January? You can ski, but (having been researching ski resorts recently) I've also noticed that this is THE most expensive weekend of the year at some resorts. Or you can indulge in some shopping - every time there is a holiday, you are bombarded with advertising by stores like Macy's, which I can guarantee will today be having a Columbus Day mattress sale or similar.
Then there is the Friday between Thanksgiving (always a Thursday) and the weekend. It's not a public holiday, but everyone takes it off as holiday - everyone American, that is - and it is supposed to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Not being American, last year The Doctor determinedly went into work. I took the Littleboys to a 'holiday show' at the library, which was full of Dads.
Because of New York's large Jewish population, the schools here also observe various Jewish holidays, so they are closed, for instance, for Rosh Hashanah, in September (although not for Hanukah). However, again these are not public holidays. Most other business carries on as normal. These type of holidays are always acccompanied by a baffling announcement on the radio station that we listen to, telling us that in Manhattan, 'alternate side parking is suspended, but you still have to feed the meters'. It took us months to work out what this meant (basically it means that there is no street cleaning, therefore you don't have to worry about your car being towed if it is parked on the wrong side of the street, but parking is not free. Got that?).
In fact, you have to follow the school calendar quite carefully to work out exactly when school IS taking place. And hope they haven't misprinted the dates - last year I only worked out at the last minute that the boys only had a week's Easter break, as opposed to the three weeks indicated by the calendar I had been sent (and by that time we'd already booked a 10 day holiday...).
Still, it's not as eccentric as in Hong Kong, where I recall my primary school being closed for such holidays as the Queen's Birthday, our Headmistress's birthday and even when there was a major golf tournament (the headmistress being a keen golfer...!). Meanwhile a friend who lives in Dubai tells me that the start of the school year there was dependent on when the moon appeared in the sky after Ramadan; she didn't even know it was officially happening until a couple of days before......
Anyway, aside from all that, hope you are all having a great Columbus day! Now, we're off to swimming lessons.....