Dec 272021
 

In honour of the traditional family argument about whether Christmas Day is a bank holiday or not, I shall be wittering on about it for a while. The UK government web site on Bank Holidays, lists it as a bank holiday. Incorrectly, although it’s understandable why it does.

The Act of Parliament currently in force establishing “bank holidays” is the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which lists the following as bank holidays :-

The following are to be bank holidays in England and Wales :-

Easter Monday

The last Monday in May.

The last Monday in August.

26th December, if it not be a Sunday.

27th December in a year in which 25th or 26th December is a Sunday.

Note how the 25th doesn’t appear! Within the text of the Act, it also states :-

No person shall be compellable to make any payment or to do any act on a bank holiday under this Act which he would not be compellable to make or do on Christmas Day or Good Friday

There are of course other missing bank holidays which are proclaimed on a yearly basis by the queen, but Christmas Day and Good Friday are special – they’re Common Law holidays that have been taken as public holidays since time immemorial (6 July 1189) as traditional customary holidays.

Those two days appear many times in legislation dealing with restrictions on what can be carried out on those days, but nowhere is it declared that they are public holidays – it is just assumed.

There used to be a good deal more customary holidays – in 1833 the Bank of England shut for 33 days a year but in 1834 shut for just 4. When bank holidays were first established in 1871, they were intended as public holidays but were expressed in financial terms – specifically so banks couldn’t be declared bankrupt for not being able to process a promissory note or a bill of exchange.

Which is why we call them “Bank” holidays. And why they aren’t strictly speaking “holidays” for workers – they are really just holidays for banks as there is no guarantee that you can take a bank holiday off work.

The Bare Family

Dec 162016
 

Without doubt, there will shortly be a pompous old fart moaning about how the meaning of christmas is being lost in the swirl of holiday celebrations. She (or he) will be droning on about the religious message. Only christians are supposed to celebrate, and are supposed to stick to the script – heading to a church in the middle of the night to listen to a pompous old fart drone on about some weird stuff.

Poppycock!

Not that I object to people wanting to listen to a pompous old fart droning on about weird stuff – that’s their choice. What I object to is being told I have to celebrate Christmas in their way. Despite the name, I can decide to celebrate it any way I want.

Now I could go on about how Christmas is merely a new name for a mid-winter festival that has been going on for thousands of years, or that some christians avoid Christmas like it sprang fully formed from the mind of Satan. And I probably have in the past, but that is beside the point.

For whatever reason, it has been decided in the western world (and a bit further) that most of us will have a few days (or a week) off work in the middle of winter for a break. And we choose how to celebrate.

To me, Christmas is about family and friends. Getting together and relaxing for a while – a few hours, or a few days.

Happy Winter Solstice from this pompous old fart, and celebrate it any way you choose.

Nov 122015
 

Starbucks (apparently a well-known brand of coffee shop for those of us who prefer to make their own coffee rather than pay over the odds for a infusion of caffeine) have introduced a plain red cup for the holiday season, christmas, Xmas, Mythmas, or the Winter Solstice (depending on what you want to call it). In previous years, Starbucks had decorated cups for the holiday season – decorated with snowflakes, etc. In other words generic seasonal symbols.

This year they have gone for a plain cup to encourage their customers to doodle.

For some reason the religious nutjobs (given their behaviour you can't really call them anything else) have taken umbrage at this – claiming that Starbucks are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. Which demonstrates the emotional maturity of a toddler crying because she can't catch her shadow, as the Starbucks' seasonal cups have never included overtly religious symbols.

There is even one of the less rational Republican candidates for president (which equates to a gibbering megalomaniac) who thinks that we ought to boycott Starbucks over the issue.

When you come down to it, Starbucks has given these religious fruitcakes the opportunity to put Christ into the holiday season by giving them an empty space on their Starbucks cups to doodle their designs.

Dec 032013
 

Before those po-faced spoilsports start jumping up and down screaming that Christmas is supposed to be all about the baby jesus, let’s take a look at the origins of Christmas…

Turns out that it might not be an exclusively Christian thing after all – despite “his” name being right there in the name – as it seems there have been other religious festivals at around the same time of year. And long before Christianity.

After all the puritans did oppose Christmas as being too “pagan”. And there is a lesson to be learnt from the mistakes made during the English Civil War – however long ago it may have been – whilst the ultra-religious are perfectly free to believe that Christmas is all about religion, it is plain that the overwhelming majority of the population are more interested in the party aspect of Christmas.

No harm in that. There’s a lot to be said for having a party or two with friends, co-workers, and family in the “bleak mid-winter”. No reason to introduce any religious poppycock if that isn’t your thing.

But where did this notion of paganism in association with Christmas come from? It turns out that having a mid-winter festival has been popular for ages :-

  1. Yule is a Germanic mid-winter festival that has vestiges in our current celebration of Christmas such as the Yule log and probably the Christmas tree.
  2. Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn marked with revelries and gift giving.
  3. The Winter Solstice has probably been “celebrated” as a brief time of plenty before the famine months of winter begin, for thousands of years. Holly, Ivy, Mistletoe are all aspects of Christmas with a potential pagan past.

There is a tradition that the date of Christmas was deliberately chosen to match the dates of existing religious festivals; whether this is true or not is almost irrelevant. What is almost certainly true is that the importance of the christian festival of Christmas owes a great deal to earlier mid-winter festivals.

After all Christians are masters of the art of syncretism.

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