Sunday, December 16, 2007

Public holidays

Like everyone I kinda like public holidays as they add to my vacation entitlement. The more the merrier I say. A world leader, I think, with regard to public holidays is probably South Africa. The country not only celebrates human rights, women's and other days, but also every religious holiday you can reasonably conjure up. There's a religion celebrating bits and pieces of their God related fairy tales, there's a public holiday to be had in South Africa. And don't remind me of Christianity inspired holidays. In Germany, where I grew up, we had more of them than you'd want to know about.

This makes no sense at all! Public holidays are just that, holidays to be celebrated by all of us, not by some of us who happen to celebrate one God or another. So, public holidays should sensibly express a given countries civic values, like 'human rights', 'freedom', 'equality', 'diversity' or whatever else is considered to be important by the country. Religious views necessarily belong in the private sphere. So, there is no good reason for why I, an agnostic, or my Muslim or Buddhist friends should have to put up with Christianity inspired public holidays. The same holds true for Christians in countries predominantly Muslim etc.

The state's proper role with regard to religion should be neutrality. Forcing all and sundry to celebrate particular religious events by way of forcing us to take time off work does not make any sense at all.

If someone wants to take time off to celebrate Xmas, I say, they should take leave and let the rest of us get on with our work. The same is true for Eid or any other excuse not to work. It's completely fine for a religious person to celebrate such events, but the state surely has no role at all to play with regard to them.


  1. Slagging off South Africa again I see, Udo, and most unfairly so. For the record, we have 12 (twelve) public holidays per annum, only two of which - Good Friday and Xmas Day - are religious. This being a secular state, they even tried to 'cancel' Xmas a couple of years ago, but this went down like a lead balloon with Christians, who make up about 80% of the total population (the other 20% being made up of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and presumably atheists like me).

    Have a cool Yule, ol' buddy, and "'n guten Rutsch".

  2. Ok, I know when I lose. So perhaps I got that one wrong. I just recall that we were all the time confronted at Wits with students wo wanted off for this or that religious reason. It drove me bonkers. Anyhow, slagging SA off... how could I, seeing that the country is faced with the great choice of having a president who thinks HIV is not the cause of AIDS, and a president who has unsafe sex with an HIV infected woman and who has a shower afterwards as a means of HIV prevention :0). Na, I think the slagging off is done by the locals all by themselves, and very efficiently so :). And a jolly good one to you, too! Guten Rutsch, wie wahr hier in Canada where we're currently drowning in snow!

  3. Much as I approve of the sentiment of this post, I wonder whether it would be possible to implement a better set of public holidays. That is, no matter what 'cause' the holiday celebrates, some people migt object. Crudely put, if you had Human Rights Day and Diversity Day in the UK, you would no doubt upset those sensitive folks at the BNP.

    And the dates for any new days would probably be identical to the current dates, so we might end up celebrating Equality Day on December 25, when people would give one another presents and wish one another a merry christmas. This would probably be better, because the state would not be officially recognising religious festivals. But it would only be marginally better, and probably not worth the outcry about 'cancelling christmas' - I can just imagine the headlines.

    For the time being, I'll just be thankful for the time off and try to enjoy myself at christmas, just as I do on another ridiculous public holiday: the Queen's birthday...

  4. News flash for you, Udo: "Showerhead" Zuma has just been elected President of the ANC. Feel free to do as much slagging-off as you like.

    "Jah would never give the power to a baldhead" sang Bob Marley in Time Will Tell. But then his dreadlocks fell out and he died of brain cancer.

  5. Try thinking of them as celebration of chocolate and sex week (Easter, famous for its rabbits and eggs) and sheer summer hedonism and sensuality on the beach day (Christmas if you live in Australia). Looked at thusly, they do indeed celebrate what is considered important by most of us here. I hadn't realised that these are Australia's civic values, but thinking about it made it obvious to me ... and while we could maybe have more idealistic ones (liberty, solidarity, the rule of law, etc.) we could actually do a lot worse.


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