St George’s Day, Bank Holidays, and Subbotniks

In the space of the last three years it’s been twice that I came across the appeal to vote to make St George’s Day a public holiday. The campaign is still going on, and this day is still not a bank holiday, as we all may guess because there’s no noise in the media about the success of the campaign, and we’re doing work. I do think it makes sense for the appeal to succeed, especially because Ireland and Scotland have bank holidays on St Patrick’s and St Andrew’s Days, respectively. In the light of this, it’s almost outrageous that St George’s Day isn’t celebrated in the same manner. Furthermore, let’s not forget about St David’s Day, celebrated on March 1st (St David being the Welsh patron-saint). Petitions to the Welsh council have been flocking since at least 2006, but still to no avail. I certainly think it’s time something comes out of all these efforts, which have indeed been stupendous. I voted for St George’s Day, and you can see the votes stats on the left (from St George’s Day site), but you can also join the cause on Facebook (see the image on the right). In fact, last year we tasted the benefit of running a cause on Facebook when Wispa chocolate bar made a surprise return. So, St George’s Day initiative may finally succeed next year.

Update: it was recently reported that the Government spent but £230 in five years on promoting St George’s Day as the national holiday. Curiously, the expenses fall in the last two years only. Even so, one can observe some increase in the sums spent. In 2007, it was mere £114; in 2008, it was already £116. I’m guessing that by 2012 (the Olympics year, if you remember) St George’s Day may finally become the public holiday.

While I was checking the data for Welsh public holidays, I came across a mention that in July 2007 the Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his plans to proclaim July 24th the national day for celebrating volunteering, possibly also making it a public holiday. In Soviet times we often celebrated volunteering on the day of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin)‘s birthday, 22 April. We’d gather on a so-called “subbotnik” (from subbOta – Russian for Saturday). The idea was pioneered in 1919, and May 1, 1920 saw the very first all-Russia subbotnik. The one in Moscow was attended by Lenin himself, who helped the clear the Kremlin grounds. The scene you can see on the contemporary photograph was widely commemorated in the Soviet art and parodied in the post-Soviet time.

Obviously, April 22nd wouldn’t be the only date for a subbotnik (or voskresnik, from voskresEn’e – Russian for Sunday). Depending on the time of the year, we’d either clean the classroom or the school yard. I would have my subbotniks at the turn of 1980-90s, when no special political meaning was any longer attached to the event. If PM Brown’s initiative is to be successful, I may be in for reliving some of those subbotniks experiences…

A note: in the Russian words, I capitalised the stressed syllables, to give you an idea of pronunciation.


2 thoughts on “St George’s Day, Bank Holidays, and Subbotniks”

  1. Our campaign for a bank holiday on St George’s Day continues to grow – we have seen a 300% increase in the number of people signing our petition in 2008 compared to 2007. And over 1,500 ‘Happy St Georges Day’ e-cards were sent from our website in one hour on 23 April 2008. View http://www.stgeorgesholiday.comI’m sure the Welsh will soon get their bank holiday on St David’s Day and then the government will have no excuse for not making 23 April a day off work.


  2. Hi, thanks a lot for your comment – for me, the idea is not even that this should be a day off work. I think it is much more important to do justice to the customs of the country, and in this respect there should be questions as to whether or not St George’s should be a national or public holiday. It is astonishing that it is still not public, and the revelations about the Government spend on the promotion of St George’s Day as the holiday are even more so.


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