For those who are unaware, today (Sunday, 25 April) is the public holiday of Anzac Day, which commemorates a campaign whereby Australian and NZ soldiers tried to invade part of modern-day Turkey at the behest of the British, who had put together their plan so haphazardly that it was pretty much doomed from the start, and got solidly trounced. Now, even when I was a kid I didn’t really like the holidays that were based on wars: we were deep into the John Howard-led culture wars and I hated all the jingoism and exalting of the military associated with these days, as if Australia were somehow better or morally purer than any other country (hahaha obviously it is not). Now, historically Anzac Day was more about mourning the senseless loss of life and pledging not to get involved in further wars after “the war to end all wars”, which would actually be admirable if that were still the case, but that era is long gone sadly.
On top of this, here’s something I never noticed as a kid but sure as hell have noticed now: you don’t even always get a day off for Anzac Day (if you have a standard Mon–Fri schedule). Most fixed-date public holidays, if they fall on the weekend, you get a day off in lieu on the Monday afterwards (and the Tuesday, if it’s Christmas and Boxing Day falling on Saturday and Sunday). But apparently, “the commemorations for Anzac Day are always on Anzac Day itself” and “no public holiday is needed if no commemorations are held”. I’m sorry, but this isn’t how any other public holiday works – no one holds Christmas lunch on Dec 27 just because Christmas itself fell on a weekend, yet we still get Dec 27 off in that event – and is honestly bullshit. As if I didn’t dislike this holiday enough, you had to go and tell me I don’t even get a holiday? Yuck.
At any rate. To “celebrate” this day, I thought I’d write a little review of the 12–13 public holidays we get in Melbourne each year. I always appreciate a day off, but we have some public holidays with (in my view) very bad reasons for existing, to the point that I would like to abolish them and replace them with better holidays. At any rate, here’s the reviews.
- New Years Day (January 1)
- Unobjectionable. Pretty necessary, actually, because who wants to go to work the day after a NYE party? (As for the workers who have to go to work the day after a NYE party – you guys deserve hella penalty rates, which I hope the public holiday gives you under your award agreement.) 8/10
- Australia Day (January 26)
- Commemorates the day British colonisers arrived at what’s now Sydney and began their invasion. Terrible public holiday, 0/10
- Labour Day (2nd Monday in March)
- Celebrates the stonemasons' strike which won us the eight-hour work day (something which has, tragically, been eroded over time). Sometimes upsets right-wingers, which surely gets it bonus points. Also gives you a long weekend in early March when Melbourne weather is usually at its best. 10/10 perfect holiday
- Easter (?????)
- Gets points for granting you a rare four-day weekend. Gets minus points for having some bizarre arcane system for determining what weekend it actually falls on, condemning you to search the web for “easter dates (this year)” every single time you need to check when it is. Also gets minus points for inconvenient supermarket closures. 6/10
- Anzac Day (April 25)
- See the intro to this post. 0/10, except in the years (not this year) where it gives you a day off work, then its historic merit as a holiday mourning war brings it to 2/10
- Queen’s Birthday (2nd Monday in June)
- Pointless holiday; does not even celebrate any known queen’s birthday. Does give you a long weekend but it’s in the middle of winter so that just means an extra day to mope around with the heater on. On the other hand, it is an extra day you don’t need to wake up and get ready for work in the dark. 5/10
- AFL Grand Final Eve (day before the AFL Grand Final)
- Does feel like a bit of a thin excuse for a public holiday, but comes at a time of year when it’s been over three months since the last public holiday, so I’ll allow it. If you like sports, Melbourne in September has a festive atmosphere anyway so it feels right to celebrate. Does also give you a long weekend. 7/10
- Melbourne Cup (1st Tuesday in November)
- a.k.a. the carnival of animal cruelty and death, and also gambling. 0/10
- Christmas Day (December 25)
- Like Easter, except you actually know when it is every year. Obliges you to catch up with family, which is a plus if you like your family, and a negative if your family are entitled annoying shits who harass you about why they have to split “their day” with your other family that you are also obliged to see on the same day. Supermarket is closed again but unlike Easter you probably won’t have to cook yourself dinner on this night so it’s no real problem. 7/10
- Boxing Day (December 26)
- The more relaxed version of Christmas Day. A cricket test starts to entertain you. Known for sales. 8/10 unless you work retail, in which case probably 0/10
Bonus: Suggested Public Holidays
For the holidays above which are bad, it wouldn’t be a solution just to abolish them with no replacement. Here are some ideas for public holidays we could celebrate, instead.
- Lunar New Year (late January/early February)
- Australia has a relatively large Asian population and it’s growing quickly. Not only is the Lunar New Year meaningful to Asian-Australians, it’d also be pretty cool and enjoyable for everyone else and would be a better thing to celebrate at a similar time of year to (yuk) Australia Day.
- May Day (May 1)
- Similar to Labour Day but more international. Celebrated in many other countries and even in Australia’s Northern Territory. Replace Anzac Day with this and let Anzac Day be more like Remembrance Day, which still exists even though we don’t get a day off for it.
- Diwali (mid-October to mid-November)
- This is certainly a festival with significance to my partner’s family, and I think it’d make for a pretty nice holiday for all. Better than Melbourne Cup for sure.
In general, I think it would be respectful for Australia to honour holidays for a number of non-Christian faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism… obviously getting more days off work is a neat bonus, but more importantly, it means that members of minority religions are treated on an equal basis to Christians and aren’t placed in the awkward position of having to ask for their holy days off, and maybe be pressured to “catch up” on missed work on other days. I’m not an expert on world religions and I don’t know what all those days are… but I’m sure Australians belonging to those communities would know, and could hopefully be consulted to make this reform happen 🙂
And with these holidays in place, we hopefully would not be left with big gaps like the one we currently have between June and late September.