“Mummy, Mummy, I don’t wanna go to school today.”
“But you’re the teacher.”
“I know, I know it’s just. Hang on, what day is it?”
“The 12th of October, dear.”
“Hell yeah. Then I don’t have to.”
“It doesn’t matter, it says it here in my annual calendar.”
“Bloody English teachers.”
It’s come round again. That great day know as Fiesta Nacional de España (previously Dia de Hispanidad), the day that we get off after just starting back from the three months summer. The one which this year has unfortunately fallen on a Wednesday. Saying that, waking up on Monday morning was more comforting this week. Knowing I had that little break in the week did wonders for the motivation. One mustn’t grumble if one doesn’t have to go to work. I suppose it could be worse, it could have fallen on a Saturday, like it did a few years back, and then absolutely no one would give a damn about the 12th of October.
On a recent poll by me to a few expats and English teachers I bumped into while walking around the centre of Sevilla, the main reason that most people either came, or decided to stay, in Spain, was because of the number of random days off. No one ever questions them, and no one really gives two hoots about exactly why we have a day off, it’s just a great idea by the people at the top of the Spanish tower who have decided to bless their people with a holiday.
So why exactly do we have today off? When I asked my wife the other day, she said “It’s something to do with the King, the Military, and all that rubbish,” she actually said a different word, but rubbish was the closest I could find to translating ‘rollo.’ I promised myself that I wouldn’t mention my wife in this blog, but she always tends to creep in, like she does to most things in my life.
Anyway, she didn’t actually know, or care, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and it turns out it was all to do with good old Christopher Columbus. The Italian bloke who lived in Spain and whose body can be found in Sevilla’s Cathedral, or at least his tomb can.
So back in 1492, when he accidently crashed into an enormous country over the other side of the Atlantic, he luckily arrived on the 12th of October. I’m so glad he didn’t on the 6th of December, or the 1st of January, otherwise we would have one less day off each year.
This day is celebrated around the world, especially in the U.S.A where it is known as Columbus Day. Here, as said above, it’s known as Fiesta Nacional de España, in other words, National Spain Day.
So what actually happens here? Well, the King of Spain gets to see his military folk in action. They put on a little show for him by showing how shiny their guns are and how straight the can keep their backs as they march about, in front of thousands of proud Spaniards in Madrid.
In Sevilla there’s a parade too. I remember going a few years back and being impressed by how polished the military guys shoes were, how many badges they had on their sleeves, and how speedy they could manoeuvres their guns. But I did giggle when they began to shout at each other and march in various directions. Everything is funny when you don’t have to go to work though.
I don’t always enjoy these random holidays. It does feel strange because it’s a Wednesday. It messes me up at work, especially with my repeat classes. This year I like my Monday and Wednesday classes more than my Tuesday and Thursday ones, which means I get a double dose of my worst groups back to back.
This year the puentes, which every English teacher over here lives by, have fallen on crappy Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I even think the one in December means going to work Monday, being off Tuesday, going in on Wednesday, then being off till the following Monday. I wonder how many students will turn up that week, probably less than the week of la Feria.
I also have the added complication of explaining to my son that he doesn’t have school. I have got to a stage with him now where he gets the fact he goes in for 5 days, then has two off. So he’s going to be blown away when I tell him he has a two on, one off, two on, and then two off. I know he’s going to ask me why, (that’s all he does these days), and I’m not sure he knows who Cristopher Columbus is, or even that America was once discovered. I don’t suppose he’ll care to be honest, any excuse to stay in bed a bit longer, then watch some TV, and go for a play on his new scooter over the park will be fine with him.
What exactly are you going to do with your random day off? I’ll hopefully go for a run, play with the kids, and get some writing done, then enjoy the evening, but not get drunk. That’s another problem with having it on a Wednesday, as opposed to a Monday or Friday, it just doesn’t extend the weekend enough (I suppose there is Tuesday night to have an odd glass or two).
So thanks Chris, Mr King, and whoever else was involved in granting us this wonderful day off, yet again. I hope you all have a pleasant one, unless you’re one of those rich retired expats, where every day must feel as if Christopher Columbus discovered something.
So, enjoy your day, and as your tucking into your lunch, or chilled beer, remember Mr Columbus and thank him for your freedom today.