In praise of the new ‘bank holiday’ on March 18th

“Bank holiday.” The term sounds almost quaint now, when our brick and mortar banks are ever fewer, and most people conduct their financial transactions online. The internet does not go on holiday.

But outdated as the expression has become as its meaning has been diluted over time (and they’ve long ago been officially renamed “public holidays”), we all still know what “bank holiday” stands for.

A day off. A paid day off. A glorious day off work for those of us lucky enough to have jobs. There has been all sorts of talk for some months about a new bank holiday. It was finally announced this week that this year, our new day off would be on March 18th.

For those of you who have yet to consult a calendar, that day is a Friday. Following on from our national holiday, St Patrick’s Day, you don’t need to be a banker to have the counting skills to realise that it all adds up to a one-off, fantastically long weekend.

The additional holiday is being given to us as a kind of public acknowledgement of what we have all been through these past 22 months. There can’t be anyone in the country who has not suffered in some way because of the pandemic that arrived into our lives almost two years ago now. The bank holiday is to commemorate the 6,000 plus people who have died of Covid in Ireland.

From next year, this new holiday will fall on the first Monday of February to mark St Brigid’s Day. If February 1st falls on a Friday, that day will be deemed to be the holiday. Next year, the first Monday of February is on the 6th of the month.

February in Ireland is often a month that seems to go on forever, despite being the shortest month. The days are still dark, and it’s still a long haul to Easter. The prospect of a long weekend every February from next year can only be welcome news.

One of the first signals of the severity of what was to be before us was the cancellation of the 2020 St Patrick’s Day parade. There is an aptness in the fact that the our new annual bank holiday will fall this year after St Patrick’s Day.

We are, in a small but important way, getting back some of that precious time that we lost. But the fact is, we will never get back the people we lost. We don’t need a new annual bank holiday to remember them, because we will never forget them.

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