Monday, 11 October 2010

Happy Columbus Day! A guide to American bank holidays

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.....

16 comments:

Expat mum said...

But they don't call them "bank" holidays, as I was reminded yesterday.
At our school, the only month where they have all full weeks at school (ie. no days off for bank hols or teachery things) is March. Every other month has at least a few four day weeks. My husband keeps saying he's going to ask for a refund.

Iota said...

The headmistress' birthday? That's a new one on me!

Jen said...

Did you know Edinburgh Zoo opens every day including Christmas? They have to feed the animals anyway so they open up the zoo too.

PantsWithNames said...

Love the idea of making up random holidays to suit yourself - so the headmistresses birthday or golf day. I think I'd have a random can't be arsed to get out of bed day and a oh my god when am I going to do the Christmas shopping day.

conuly said...

Hanukkah isn't a holiday, it's a "festival". NYC schools get off for the High Holy Days and for Passover, but that's because they're important holidays and a number of students wouldn't be able to attend on those days. Hanukkah isn't, and there's no proscription against work or travel then either.

Nicola said...

Ha! Columbus Day bypassed us altogether. That's the joy of the boys being at a British School in Chicago - they get to patently ignore all these strange bank holidays and carry on regardless. And I'm not sure what I would think if the school suddenly announced they were closed for the day in recognition of the head teacher's birthday! That is truly priceless.

Mud in the City said...

My colleague's son got the day off in Singapore recently because of the F1 Grand Prix. (Almost the same as a golf day!)

Home Office Mum said...

this is why moving there fills me a great deal of trepidation. Just soooooooooooo much new stuff to take in at once. Still undecided by the way

Nota Bene said...

Could you export some of those holidays over here...it's a long haul up to Christmas!

nappy valley girl said...

Expat Mum - ah, but doesn't March have Spring break? My husband says the same.

Iota - it really is true. She was a great character, though. Unforgettable.

Jen - I didn't know. I bet they get quite a few visitors too!

PantsswithNames - with you there. How about a 'drank an extra glass of red wine last night and feeling dodgy' day?

Conuly - thanks for explaining. Yes, it obviously does make sense, if so many children would be unable to come to school.

Nicola - I didn't know your boys went to a British school! So they don't come home with songs about the American flag then, like Littleboy 1?

Mud - well, why the heck not?! We should probably have days off for World Cup games....

HomeOfficeMum - don't worry, you do get used it. I feel like an old hand already....

NB - whatever happened to that idea of having an extra bank holiday in October? Did the Tories get rid of it, like everything else? Bloody killjoys.

A Modern Mother said...

They are just called "holidays" not to be confused with the British use of holiday, which Americans call "vacation". Clear as mud? Oh, and that is a British saying... An american would just say "got it?!"

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Ha ha I was thinking the same as A Modern Mother. Got that?! How American do you sound??!

Bush Mummy said...

I spent one of my best Christmases ever when I was single, visiting a girlfriend in New York and going to the cinema on Christmas day. Everything was open and it was like a normal day which, when you are single and trying to avoid the schumltz of the holiday period, was a welcome relief.

BM x

Anonymous said...

Here in Columbus, GA, banks and government offices were closed
but it's not a school holiday.

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nmaha said...

I can confirm on the moon-sighting thing in Dubai.

I grew-up there, and the best part was we celebrated festivals from all over the world.