Monday, August 2, 2010

Holiday: It Needs No Significance

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Most of the holidays on the North American calendar have a specific purpose. Whether religious or secular in nature, there's a clear reason why the holiday has been sanctioned by the government, and specific celebrations to attend that occur on that day, whether re-reading the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. or churches holding Midnight Mass. Cynics, though, often state that the original purpose of most holidays is ignored, businesses just use whatever it is as an excuse to hold a sale, people just want to stay home and relax, and many don't even realize the origins of a given holiday.

The epitome of that viewpoint comes in the form of the August Civic Holiday in certain provinces of Canada. Held the first Monday of August, it celebrates... well, some places it celebrates a locally-significant figure, and some places it celebrates nothing. It's just a nice day off in the middle of the summer, roughly half-way between Canada Day and Labour Day.

Since 1968, here in Toronto, the "August Civic Holiday" has actually been Simcoe Day. It honours the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe. In my neighbourhood, more attention is actually paid to Simcoe in late September, when we re-enact the walk Simcoe took on the Toronto Carrying Path. In fact, one study I saw indicates that only about 15% of Toronto residents even know that the August Civic Holiday is really Simcoe Day here.

This rather makes the point. People do not care what the holiday is celebrating. They simply want the day off to relax in the middle of the summer. The day could be proclaimed the Purple People Eater's Day and people would still take it off.

I have nothing against holidays celebrating something with cultural significance. However, every holiday does not need some grand significance. People just want an occasional day off, and I see nothing wrong with that, and nothing wrong with the August Civic Holiday.

No comments: