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The gossips say there are too many public holidays in Spain. If we include other old clichés such as our interminable table talk, the mandatory siesta, and all the other special days and long weekends we apparently have and invent off the cuff, it seems surprising that we ever manage to lift a finger.

Well, I don’t know about you but as far as the long nap and table talk is concerned, we’re not equal to the task, at least not on weekdays. And as for public holidays, maybe we have a reputation we don’t deserve in southern Europe. We all have our quirks when it comes to public holidays, so let’s take a look at the public holidays in English-speaking countries, some of the dates our neighbours mark in red on their calendars, which for us are working days.

We’ll start with the UK. Although some public holidays are specific to Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the majority coincide with ours, with some notable exceptions:

  • In Scotland, the New Year continues to be celebrated on 2 January.
  • Patrick’s Day is celebrated on 17 March in Northern Ireland. This part of the island also commemorates Orangeman’s Day (the Battle of the Boyne) on 12 July.
  • On the first Monday of May in the UK, everything is closed because of what they call the Early May Bank Holiday, and they also take a day off work on the last Monday of the month to celebrate the Spring Bank Holiday.
  • Seeing that there’s a spring festival it’s no wonder there’s another one in summer. When the last Monday of August comes around, everyone locks up shop for the Summer Bank Holiday.
  • On 30 November, Scotland also takes a break from the daily grind to celebrate St Andrew’s Day.
  • Also, the same as in some parts of Spain, 26 December is a holiday. They call it Boxing Day. Its origins date back to ancient times and there are various theories about the name.

Let’s cross the Atlantic. Thanks to films and television, many public holidays in the USA will be familiar to you, but it’s quite likely there are some you’ve never heard of. As practical as ever, they vary the date of most of their public holidays. If a holiday falls on a Saturday, it is moved to Friday, and if it falls on a Sunday, to Monday. Sensible even when taking a break. These are the most important dates:

  • Martin Luther King Day. This is celebrated on the third Monday of January to honour the life of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King.
  • Next, on the third Monday in February, we find President’s Day. In theory it was created to commemorate the birth of George Washington.
  • On the last Monday in May, you can start to get the barbecue ready because it’s a public holiday too. This one is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember all those who died while serving in the armed forces.
  • In summer comes the turn of one of the most popular celebrations: the Fourth of July, i.e. Independence Day. This is the day the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence and separated from Great Britain.
  • While we celebrate Labour Day on May 1, in the USA it falls on the first Monday of September.
  • The second Monday in October is the day when Americans commemorate the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. They call it Columbus Day.
  • November is a big month as far as public holidays are concerned. On 11 November, Veterans Day is celebrated to honour military veterans. Then, two or three weeks later, on the fourth Thursday in November, families in the USA gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. And as they make the exception of having a public holiday on a Thursday, they take advantage of the situation and extend the break until Saturday. That way, they don’t have to go to work on the Friday either.

But what about Australia? Is it like the UK when it comes to the dates of public holidays? Let’s take a look:

  • Beginning in January Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th. It marks Captain Arthur Phillip’s arrival at Port Jackson in 1788, where he established the first English settlement.
  • The following public holiday is Labour Day, although the date varies depending on which part of the country you are in. In Western Australia it’s held on the first Monday in March, in Victoria and Tasmania on the second Monday in March, and in some regions on the first Monday in October. However, if you are in Queensland or the Northern Territory, you’ll be able to take a break on the first Monday in May.
  • On April 25, the country commemorates those who served and died in combat. This day is called ANZAC Day (an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and was originally established to honour the Australian and New Zealand soldiers killed in Turkey during the First World War.
  • Another public holiday we don’t have is the Queen’s Birthday. It seems odd that, although this day is not celebrated in the UK, it’s a holiday in Australia. In most parts of the country it falls on the second Monday in June, with the exception of Western Australia where it is usually held on the last Monday in September or the first Monday in October.
  • The same as in the UK, December 26 (Boxing Day) is also a holiday down under.

Now you only have to decide what celebration you want to join and plan your getaway.