Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Stories from My Mission: Holidays

Because today is Independence Day in the US I thought that I could mention something about holidays in Argentina.

Argentina does not have more national holidays than the US but it does have more fixed holidays. That means that there are more national holidays that fall on a specific date and they do not move them to accommodate people who are traveling. For example, in the US Labor Day and Memorial day are always on Mondays so that there is a three day weekend. These holidays are movable. Holidays such as the 4th of July, are fixed. In Argentina the majority of their holidays are fixed (two of their three independence days are fixed, the third one is a made up holiday to celebrate a victory over French and English forces in 1845).

Because so many of their holidays are fixed they have to deal with the problem of what happens if the holiday (such as the 25th of May, the 9th of July, the 20th of June, the 12th of October, May 1st, the 2nd of April, or the 24th of March) falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. If it falls on a Tuesday then there is an additional holiday on the Monday before. If it falls on a Thursday then there is an additional holiday on the Friday afterwards. Technically there are no additional holiday days given if any of these holidays fall on a Wednesday, but many people assumed that there would be additional days off work anyway.

For example if the 25th of May fell on a Wednesday, and because it was a sufficiently important holiday, people would assume that either the following Thursday and Friday would also be holidays, or that the proceeding Monday and Tuesday would also be holidays. But because there was no general rule, half the people would assume that Thursday and Friday would be off as well, and the other half would assume that Monday and Tuesday would be off instead. The end result would be that everyone would end up taking the whole week off and nothing would get done (kids wouldn't go to school, some shops would be closed, government offices would be closed and everyone would be sitting in their yards barbecuing).

If the holiday fell on a Saturday or a Sunday then people would assume that either a Friday or a Monday would also be a holiday to compensate. But again there were no set rules, so half the people would pick one day and the other half would pick the other, with just about everyone ending up with a four day weekend. As missionaries holidays were both helpful and an annoyance. Because there was a holiday people would tend to be home and willing to talk to us, but also because it was a holiday people were always going places and doing things and thus they were not willing to talk to us. This was compounded by the fact that some holidays (the really important ones) tended to stretch out and turn into holi-weeks  instead of holi-days.

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