Here in Australia it is the start of another long weekend, just as it is in England. So it is time for us all to kick back and relax.
My birthday is in the first week of May and when I lived in England, it became a tradition of mine to have a barbecue on the May Day bank holiday Monday. The strange thing was, I always got good weather for it. As you know, good weather in England is never a given.
So to consistently get good weather so early in May was quite an achievement. My barbecue invites would always go out with the words “weather guaranteed” and sure as eggs are eggs, we always got “weather”. But fortunately, always sunny weather.
There was one barbecue and I believe it may have been 2007, when leading up to the bank holiday we had nothing but thick grey clouds and non-stop rain. I think the rain started on Thursday and was still going strong on the Sunday before my barbecue. Everybody coming was convinced I’d finally lose my sunny weather streak.
On the Monday of the barbecue the rain continued hard. At two o’clock in the afternoon it was still raining and the barbecue was set to start at three. Amazingly, just before three o’clock, the rain stopped, the clouds parted for the first time in four days and from one small area the sun shone through.
This led to rumours that I, ahem, controlled the weather. Now that I have emigrated to Australia, my sunny streak in the UK remains intact, and controlling the weather here is a lot easier.
So it won’t surprise you to know that I’m having a barbecue (did you read my barbecue tips ?) on Monday. I expected it to be hot and sunny. But I have to say I was both very surprised and pleased when I discovered last year that they celebrate May Day bank holiday here too. So today I decided to look into why it is celebrated. What I found out was quite surprising.
In the UK, May Day was traditionally a spring festival to celebrate the arrival of warmer weather. More recently it has been associated with Labour day. Well it’s certainly not spring here in Australia, so what’s the celebration?
Bank Holidays in Australia
This was the surprise. Each of the states in Australia celebrate different bank holiday Mondays. It is only in Queensland and Northern Territory that the first Monday in May is a bank holiday. Luckily for me I live in Queensland. In Northern Territory it is simply called May Day. But here in Queensland and it is called Labour Day.
All the other states, except Tasmania, also celebrate Labour Day. But three of them have chosen October 5th, one March 2nd and the other one March 9th. That got me wondering why Tasmania does not celebrate Labour Day. But then I noticed something else.
Western Australia has 10 bank holidays a year, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have 11. The ACT has 12. Northern Territory has 16. Now, Tasmania, the only state not to celebrate Labour Day, has 21 bank holidays a year.
Wow! Tasmania is the place to be.
Well it’s not actually, for two reasons. First, the climate is more like England’s than Australia’s. Secondly, on closer inspection, 10 of their bank holidays are regional. So if you were to choose your region of Tasmania carefully, you may just get 13 or 14 bank holidays. But in order to enjoy those extra days off, you will probably need to buy a bobble hat and some gloves.
Five of Northern Territory’s bank holidays also turned out to be regional, so you won’t get too many extra days up there either. But you also won’t need the bobble hat.
And England? England only have eight bank holidays a year. For any of you who are still on the fence, surely that must be the deciding factor. I bet you are all now saying “That’s it! I have just got to move to Australia”.
Have a great weekend, wherever you are.
Update: April 2015
I am indebted to Frank A Gilling for pointing out something (see his comment below) that is now plainly obvious to me but of which I wasn’t aware when I wrote this post back in 2009. The thing is, Australians don’t call them ‘bank holidays’ or ‘bank holiday Mondays’.
They are public holidays.
‘Bank holiday’ is mainly a UK expression, and it means, you guessed it, a public holiday. So whenever you see the term ‘bank holiday’ in this article, you can substitute ‘public holiday’, unless you’re from the UK in which case you’d probably be happy to leave it as it is.
Thanks again Frank for clearing that up.