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Between the extremes

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Today, time spent honouring the sacrifice of others has morphed into time spent sacrificing as little as possible.

Rather than celebrating Workers Day, how about celebrating actual work? Picture: No Destination.com

While I enjoy being constructively idle as much as the next person I can’t help but feel that time spent commemorating our most significant and formative events can be better utilised than by celebrating a public holiday.

I’m not saying that the contributions made by icons and groups of years gone by should be disregarded but none of these formative moments came as a result of a state sanctioned stay-away.

By the end of the year, South Africans would have enjoyed 14 public holidays in 2017. This number not only includes prominent Christian holidays but also two days given off for no reason other than they fell over a weekend.

This was the case from day one of 2017 when the public were awarded an extra day to sleep it off, having deemed the sabbath fit for fun and festivities and fermented grapes as long as the Monday takes a raincheck.

South Africans then take a break from taking a break until Human Rights Day, on March 21, signals the start of a period of nearly two months when a five-day work week is is little more than a theoretical concept.

Before you realise it, it’s Women’s Day and by the time we have our first braai of the summer, on September 24, the festive season is upon us.

Today, time spent honouring the sacrifice of others has morphed into time spent sacrificing as little as possible.

Starting with Human Rights Day, the annual commemoration of the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a date that also coincides anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre.

Both of these events should be deeply ingrained in our nation’s psyche but recollection is a far cry from reaction.

Similarly, what good is celebrating the strides made by our youth on June 16, when many of those who took to the streets of Soweto that day, as children, are now faced with the sad reality that their descendants now only visit once a month, when Sassa pays out.

Many women who remember the sentiments of August 9, 1956, today face the same predicament.

Heritage Day has become an excuse to braai, like we ever really needed one. Granted, some also take the opportunity to dress up a bit, but apart from food and fabric, we act as if our culture and identity gives little cause for celebration

Instead of reminiscing about our first democratic election, should April 27 not be used to look for ways continue the fight against the oppressors to liberate ourselves from mental and economic slavery? It is Freedom Day, after all.

Rather than celebrating Workers Day, how about celebrating actual work?

I’m not going to get into a theological debate, but Jesus was not born in December and Easter Weekend often has more to do with convenience on the calendar than Christ.

As for the Day of Goodwill, why should we have an annual 24 hour period allocated to be nice to each other?

Albeit strictly a matter of opinion, determining which public holiday has become the most obscure and irrelevant can be a daunting task but of a lengthy list of options, few will disagree that tomorrow, December 16, is a serious contender for poll position.

There is something to be said for a day that was set aside to celebrate God’s endorsement to have rivers run red with blood on condition that the date is permanently set aside to say ‘thanks for picking us’.

The overwhelming majority of the population obviously didn’t appreciate the sentiment and spent the years that followed emphasising this point. Some may feel that this is a day to remember. Others will be wanting to forget. Somewhere between the two extremes is room for reconciliation.