Special Days by Trevor Plumbly
Days Lost in the Mists of Time
They may well be special to some, but in my old, if somewhat worn opinion, some of them are a bit of a non-event or at least should be in this day and age. We Kiwis seem compelled to incite ourselves to a commemorative day frenzy for the most obscure reasons, and every year I can’t help wondering if we really need quite so many of them. But we sort of specialise in days off and expect all and sundry to observe and respect them; in the light of the increasing multi-cultural nature of New Zealand society, isn’t it about time we addressed these antiquated and sectarian mandated holidays? Most of us have little regard for the background of these traditional ‘days’. Nor, it seems, do the majority of us spend the religious holidays in quiet contemplation of things heavenly.
Too Many Days Off
We kick the year off by virtually closing the country down for New Year’s Day which is fair enough, just about everybody does celebrate that in some form or another, but the reason for having a statutory day off after a day off is quite beyond me, especially after the prolonged Christmas holiday break we have down under. In a country so reliant on foreign tourism, it simply doesn’t make sense to close anything to trade, let alone half the country. Next up, for Auckland anyway is ‘Anniversary Day’: these days are held on the appropriate date throughout the various provinces but, sadly, I doubt if anyone outside the Historical Society gives a toss when things kicked off; for the rest of us it’s an arcane excuse for another day’s truancy. A few days after that comes Waitangi Day, rightly regarded as the most important day in the New Zealand calendar and one which should be commemorated by the entire country. But serious thought should be given to re-naming it ‘New Zealand Day’ to give it a broader cross-cultural base.
Easter? Forget it
Then of course, there’s the big one: Easter! Why on earth this Christian event is still foisted on the entire population year after year is quite beyond me. If those that believe that this is a special time in their religious year wish to acknowledge it in a special manner, go ahead! But don’t force it on Jews, Muslims, Hindus et al as a compulsory holiday where normal trading activity outside a few select areas is illegal. Anzac Day is important, it’s a day that raises itself above religion, race, age and gender; a day for both reflection and celebration – there can’t be many better reasons to declare a public holiday than those. But, of course, the silly side must have its share and it does with Queen’s Birthday! If there’s a dafter reason to shut up shop I’ve thankfully never encountered it. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the old gal no end, but she only affects our lives on a sort of second hand basis, so let’s just send her some flowers and get back to work.
Closed for Business
I’ve always voted Labour, but for the life of me, I still can’t get my head around the idea of celebrating ‘Labour Day’. We don’t force little boys up chimneys any more, 12 hour shifts down the mine are gone, we all enjoy civilised working hours in largely protected conditions, get weekends off, time-and-a-half, plus days in lieu for compensation. So why the hell do we need to celebrate winning the struggle by sitting on our collective butts for yet another day? Next up is Christmas, but don’t worry, I’m not going there; there’s a difference between mildly eccentric opinion and a death wish. Seriously though, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to give employees the same number of days off per year, but allow them to use them at their own discretion? That way we could avoid the spectacle of tourists wandering around peering through the windows of shops closed for business. On mentioning New Zealand, one wit once remarked ‘I went there once, but it was closed’, a good one-liner perhaps, but for unfortunate tourists arriving on certain days there must be a ring of truth to it!