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Celebrating Family Day 2011

February 20, 2011

Family DayTomorrow – at least in the part of Canada where I live – is Family Day. This relatively new statutory holiday (on the third Monday of February) was created to apparently bridge the long, monotonous gap between current stat holidays (i.e., New Year’s Day in January and Good Friday in March/April), and allow the 60% of Canadians who are lucky enough to apparently deserve an extra day off the chance to spend some quality time with their families.   

NOTE: Whether or not a ‘day off’ during the already-shortest month of the year has any real impact on productivity, morale, or the general well-being of Canadians has yet to be determined.  It is doubtful, though, that you’ll hear too many people complaining about being forced to stay home from work or school on a Monday in the middle of winter!  Companies, on the other hand, have expressed concern about the financial losses incurred by having another stat holiday enforced on them – and rightly so! 

Most statutory holidays (government mandated, paid days off) recognize events of historical or religious significance. For example, both Christmas and Good Friday relate to the birth and death/resurrection of Jesus Christ (regardless of faith, these events have been internationally recognized for 2,000 years; for how much longer this continues to be the case – vs. individuals being granted different days off to celebrate their own religious beliefs – remains to be seen).  New Year’s Day marks the end of one year and the start of another (hopefully happier and more prosperous) one. 

Queen Victoria (and her family)

Queen Victoria and her family

In Canada, Queen Victoria (the ‘Mother of Confederation’) is honoured on her birthday – May 24 (or the closest Monday; it is also ‘unofficially’ considered to be the first long weekend of summer).  July 1 is the day we observe the birth of our nation (in 1867).  Labour Day – which honours the social and economic achievements of the working class – has been celebrated on the first Monday of September since 1882. 

And, of course, we observe (in Canada) the second Monday in October as a day of Thanksgiving.  NOTE: neither Boxing Day (December 26), nor the Civic Holiday (the first Monday in August; originally called ‘Emancipation Day’ and historically linked to the abolition of slavery in Canada in 1834) are statutory holidays, although many private and most public sector employees are fortunate enough to get them off with pay.

So where does the idea of ‘Family Day’ fit into this pattern? Certainly ‘family’ is important – we all have some version of one – but the celebration of family simply cannot be seen as historically or religiously significant.  Why, then, create a holiday to acknowledge what simply ‘is’?

New Year's Eve 1955

New Year's Eve 1955 with my family

Most of us already spend a significant amount of ‘quality’ time (however you define that) with our families – without government interference.  If we aren’t at work, or between work and home – running the thousand-and-one errands that keep our specific family unit humming along – we are generally with one segment of our family or another (whether that family consists of two people living together as a couple, a blended group of parents, grandparents, kids, and/or step-kids, or just you and a twelve pound cat that sheds too much).  Do we really need a holiday in order to acknowledge that we come from, live with, and/or belong to some type of family? (And don’t most of us normally spend ‘holidays’ like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc. with our families anyway?)  

And exactly who does the government recognize as ‘family’?  The focus seems to be on parents with young children.  What if you aren’t married? What if you don’t have children?  What if your kids are grown and gone?  What if you don’t have any family left?  Should you still qualify for a paid day off if you’re just going to just sit home all by yourself? (Just a thought!)

My Family Christmas 2010

Christmas with my family 2010

Or what if you have a family but you don’t like or get along with them? Are you supposed to ‘interact’ with them just because it’s a day specified for that particular purpose?   Call me old-fashioned, but I think it smacks just a little bit of the ‘big brother’ syndrome – political overseers telling us how to live our lives.  How and when I associate with my family is my business – and having a ‘day off’ in the middle of winter to supposedly spend more time with them isn’t going to change that!  I spend time with my family because I WANT to – not because someone (especially elected politicans) say I should!

And I suspect that – in spite of the countless  ads I’ve seen in the newspapers over the past couple of weeks showcasing special movie deals and attractions discounts, activities at museums and galleries, and large-scale amusement-type venues being hosted in various cities – most young families will spend tomorrow the same way they spend most of their ‘family time’ together. Adults will use it to catch up on paperwork, reading, or sleep. The kids will drop themselves in front of the TV, computer, or video game console.  A single day off from work and school in mid-February isn’t going to change the family dynamic!  (And those that partake in the attractions being promoted are only going to be separated from money they probably can’t afford to spend anyway!)

Let’s face it, the politicians who thought this holiday up did so to impress constituents so that they could secure more votes in the next election.  They weren’t really concerned with whether or not we spend time with our families – or the quality of the time we do allocate for that purpose.  I honestly wish they had just been honest and forthright (yes, I know, we’re talking about politicians here, but still …) about the reason they decided to jam a statutory holiday into the middle of the long, cold, boring Canadian winter.  If they had, then instead of Family Day, tomorrow we might be celebrating:

February Sucks Day – Let’s face it, one of the main reasons they granted (the majority of) Canadians a stat holiday in mid-February was because people kept complaining that there wasn’t one.  We wanted a day off in the worst-weather month of the year, and we got one.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Day – I mean, isn’t this what the day is really all about? A sort of ‘pick me up’ to offset the lack of sunshine during the winter that puts people into the doldrums? But unless the government can also arrange for the sun to shine and the temperature to spike to 72 degrees F, having the third Monday in February ‘off’ isn’t really going to cure the mid-winter blues.  Sorry!

Wimpy Canadians Day –Winter in (most parts of) Canada is generally long and cold and  snowy and miserable (unless you are a big-time outdoor winter activities person – and then I’m sure you still experience the frustration of wildly fluctuating weather, avalanche warnings, and rogue bands of coyotes waiting to pick the weaker of you off the cross country ski trails).  Does an extra stat holiday REALLY make you feel better about winter? I didn’t think so.  Personally, I wish people would just stop complaining about winter (or move)!

February Fun

Family Day 2011???

As I sit here writing this (it’s mid-afternoon on Sunday), the weather forecast is calling for up to 15cm (6 inches) of snow overnight, with the possible added joy of freezing rain and ice pellets.  Since its mid-February, that’s not surprising.  I suppose the ‘upside’ is that schools won’t have to worry about whether or not to call a ‘snow day’ closure for Monday, and the city crews will have a fairly easy time clearing the roads (since business and commerce will be shut down and few people will be out and about).  And it will (sort of) force families to hunker down in their nice, cosy little homes – together.  (So maybe the government was on to something after all!)

As for Family Day 2011 at my house – it looks like my husband will be spending his ‘day off’ at the back end of a snow blower and a salt spreader, and drinking extra coffee to keep warm while he’s at it.  The cat will be lying in the warmest spot she can find.  And I’ll be doing what I always do on Mondays (holiday or not) – writing about the joys of life here on  … the other side of 55.

You don't need the government to tell you this!

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