Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bank Holidays the Spanish Way

I thought it was a nice simple idea. List the Spanish National Holidays, explain why they were celebrated and bingo a quick and hopefully interesting article about life in Spain. In fact it turned out to be difficult to establish which days were and which days were not National Holidays. Many published calendars for instance mistakenly name the traditional Spanish gift giving day, the Three Kings, on January 6th as a National Holiday which it isn't.

It took me a while to understand that the reason for this difficulty is because the list is not about holidays but about days off work. Christmas Day in 2011 was not a holiday for instance because it was on a Sunday and that's not a working day so there was no need to give it any special status.

There are fourteen days off work wherever you live in Spain. Two of these days are chosen by the local Town Hall. This means that 12 days are chosen either by National or Regional Government. The National Government lists, in the Official State Bulletin, up to nine non working days. Since 2010 no more than eight days have been named nationally. In 2011 it was just seven and the last time all nine were used was in 2009.

When the Government publishes its “unchangeable” list they also publish a suggested but changeable list. These are the holidays the Regional Governments can alter for local traditions or expectations including holidays like Epiphany on January 6th Maunday Thursday at Easter and San José, Fathers Day on March 19th. Mother's Day is on the first Sunday of May so it's never a holiday. All of the Communities add in Regional Days like the ones for Valencia on October 9th and Murcia on June 9th.

The normal National Holidays are New Year's day, Good Friday, Labour Day (May 1st ), Assumption Day (August 15th), National Day of Spain (October 12th), All Saints Day (November 1st ),  Constitution Day, (December 6th), Immaculate Conception (December 8th) and Christmas Day.

I should have started this article by apologising for my presumption that you use the Gregorian Calendar and have a grasp of Catholic dogma similar or superior to mine. Hence no explanation of New Year's day, Christmas or Easter.

Assumption day and Immaculate Conception both hinge around the Virgin Mary: the first celebrates the day on which her body and soul ascended to heaven and Immaculate Conception the day she was conceived. All Saints day commemorates all those who get to see God face to face in heaven. Back on Earth, in Spain, it's the day the play Don Juan de Tenorio is performed and people visit the graves of dead family and friends with flowers.

May 1st is the Fiesta del Trabajo and is tied in to International Workers Day which celebrates the gains made in worker's rights and freedoms or, if you prefer, choose the Catholic justification of celebrating Saint Joseph Worker.

The 12th October is multi-choice. Many Spaniards call it el Pilar because it is the feast day of the Virgin of Pilar which is a national symbol. It's also the day that Columbus stumbled onto the New World. At first the holiday was known as Día de la Hispanidad, but the name changed to National Day of Spain in 1987.

Finally, Constitution Day celebrates the return of Spain to democracy in 1978 with the acceptance in referendum of the new constitution.

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