December 29, 2016
Any good excuse for a holiday
Think you deserve a little more time off? Feast Days were a big thing back in medieval times, basically holidays for your favorite saints and noted Biblical events. And there were a lot of them. Alas, only a few, like Easter and St. Patrick's day, are remembered and celebrated today.
The feast of Saint Crispian was memorialized by Shakespeare in Henry V. The battle of Agincourt took place on 25 October 1415, which coincided with the feast of the Crispin and Crispinian, the patron saints of "cobblers, curriers, tanners, and leather workers."
Rallying the troops, Shakespeare has King Henry pay homage to what had turned out to be very much a "working holiday."
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
Secular governments do the same thing today in a different guise. Hence "World Plumbing Day" (that was March 11, 2012, so you missed your chance to celebrate). In fact, the resolutions identifying these modern feast days for our modern saints and their causes are no less ubiquitous.
The record so far is held by the The 99th Congress (1985-86), that cranked out 275 (!) of these day/week/month/year resolutions, accounting for almost 40 percent (!!) of the "lawmaking" performed. Why? Well, opines Senate Historian Donald Ritchie,
There's also some political benefit to the members. [The resolutions] show that they have been paying attention to good causes in their districts that their constituents are concerned about.
A big waste of time, countered some killjoys, and 104th Congress (1995-96) officially stepped on the brakes, trimming the resolution-making business a good 90 percent. By the 112th Congress, though, they were back in business, with 156 passed.
That's just Congress. Though somewhat more measured in their application, presidential proclamations have typically had more staying power. Though why not make them all paid holidays? Toss in the special "week" and "month" commemorations and we'd never have to work again!