Holidays can be of many types – some of them are religious, others are invented, some of them are traditional, others are modern-day occasions to feel good about or commemorate something. Among them, there are those that are established by law, and usually involve not only celebrations, commemorations, and such but they involve banks and schools closing, along with some private enterprises, sometimes even supermarkets (even though this is pretty rare, I must say, as they thrive on the extended shopping people tend to schedule for exactly these days). Some of these are related to events in certain countries’ history. Have you ever wondered where Canada Day comes from and what it really means? It commemorates the unification of the colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single Dominion. But not all of these public holidays are so straightforward – there are some that may seem a bit odd for those outside these countries.
The public holiday that changes dates – Koningsdag, The Netherlands
Koningsdag, or King’s Day, is the celebration of the birthday of the king of the Netherlands. Quite simply, one might say. But it changes not only dates but names, too, along with the reigning monarch of the country. Until 2013, the holiday was known as Koninginnedag – Queen’s Day – to celebrate the birthday of Queen Beatrice. When she abdicated and was succeeded by King Willem-Alexander, the holiday changed names to Koningsdag and its date – from April 30 to April 27. The holiday involves large-scale celebrations and a nationwide ‘flea market’ where people sell their used goods. Many concerts, special events, and similar celebrations take place during the holiday, especially in Amsterdam, which is one of the locals’ favorite destinations around this time of the year – the city’s population usually more than doubles for the celebration.
Celebrating destruction – Bastille Day, France
The National Day of France is known as Bastille Day in English-speaking areas, and for a reason: it commemorates the storming of the Bastille, the infamous armory, fortress, and political prison in Paris, which was also the symbol of royal authority. On June 14, 1789, the Revolutionary forces attacked the fortress (which housed just seven inmates at the time) and took it by force. As one might expect, the occupation – and later the destruction – of such an iconic building has been the flashpoint for the French revolution – and it is commemorated to this day on June 14 each year.
Government-sanctioned relaxation – Picnic Day, Northern Australia
The first Monday of August – which falls in the middle of the winter Down Under – is a day when the government mandates people to go on a picnic. Luckily, this falls into the Dry Season of the Northern Territories (it would be too cold for a picnic in the South), so people can enjoy a nice meal outside during this long weekend. The holiday dates back to the late 1800s (the exact date is unknown) when the workers building the North Australia Railway were granted a day off to spend on the banks of the Adelaide River. Later, it has become a public holiday, offering locals a long weekend of food, fun, and recreation.