Running activities on a cruise ship with an international staff, I was often asked by my team about the national holidays of England with a view to recreating them for the enjoyment of our guests onboard. Many people have a basic understanding of the major events of other nations such as Chinese New Year or Rio Carnival. There are also holidays of other cultures that many tourists didn’t previously understand but really enjoy finding out about like Diwali and then there are holidays that are just a big party like July 4th, Australia Day or St Patrick’s. In fact, there are many brilliant national days from around the world that we could introduce our guests to. The problem comes with trying to explain the holidays of England.
There are only eight public holidays here (one of the lowest in the world). Christmas Day is a fairly obvious one, after that it gets trickier. What actually happens on any of the others? New Year’s Day is when many people get a day to sleep off a hangover but what is the August Bank Holiday for? What do people do on May Day? Are there any Easter Monday traditions? Even the purpose of Boxing Day is hard to explain to my international friends. Many would say that the national day of England is St George’s Day which isn’t actually a public holiday and that might be because we don’t seem to do anything for this either. In brainstorms all we manage to come up with for most of these is going to a beer garden, which is often not the greatest idea in early April.
This brings me to Easter. I have been trying to run events for years at Easter time but they are often a bit of a failure. A few years ago, I ran an Easter Egg hunt, only two people came to take part. It seems children have been eating Easter eggs for weeks by this point and now get so many that they loose all impact. I have tried dressing as the Easter bunny but this seems to make children cry (although maybe that says more about my performance than the costume).
So, the team meetings go, ‘what else is there to do over the four-day Easter weekend?’ ‘Is there a traditional Easter meal?’ ‘It must be lamb, or is it chicken?’ ‘Isn’t it served on the Sunday?’ ‘Does that mean it is just a normal Sunday lunch?’ ‘Then what about traditional Good Friday food?’. I feel I should know the answers… Let’s be honest, the only things we are certain about for Easter are Church services (which only certain people are interested in) and chocolate. So, eggs it is.
At the meeting this year, I thought we agreed I would get the eggs. So off to the discount supermarket I went. I had 38 people to buy for plus a few spares for prizes so I got 50 eggs for £1 each (bargain!) and at the till the lady told me somebody else had just bought 50 eggs too. I thought nothing of it until I got back and of course, my colleague was the ‘someone else’ and now (on the evening of Good Friday) we had 100 eggs to get rid of. Cut to this morning when an email arrived from the manager “don’t worry about the Easter eggs, I picked them up on my way home”. So somehow, due to a communication failure, there were now 150 chocolate eggs sitting in my office (to be shared by 38 people).
Now, everyone is getting chocolate. Eggs for staff, eggs for the families of staff, eggs for the neighbours, eggs for the chef to melt into recipes, we even tried giving eggs to people passing by but it seems taking chocolate from strangers is a little taboo.
As I write this, tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I will be going round again with more eggs, hoping people have eaten the previous ones, I will be doing this fairly slowly as nothing else really happens at Easter and then going round again on Easter Monday…
“Eggs, get your chocolate eggs”.
“Please, take some”.