Time Off Sucks: Why Canada Has Too Many Holidays

15 Sep

My friends, I am enervated.


Summer has passed us by with nought but a hint of decent weather. Being the cave rat I am, I don’t often see sunlight anyway, but it’s nice to know it’s there – and this year it just wasn’t. I just had to replace a very expensive computer, the price of which has crippled my ability to enjoy the things that make life worth living (i.e. music equipment, morning coffees and top-shelf vodka) and apparently the Windows 7 beta doesn’t feature a driver for my particular brand of wireless, so I’m being forced to carry around twenty feet of ethernet cable wherever I go until Bill Gates gets his shit together. And to top it all off, I lost my hundred-dollar transit pass last night, just two weeks into the month.


To put it lightly, I’ve had better days. This is probably the first time in a very long time I’ve ever longed for a vacation, which (in my characteristically smooth and self-referential way) leads me to the point of my article today.

I’ve never understood why we have as many holidays as we do. Generally speaking, I don’t like holidays.

holidays suck

I know what you’re thinking. “Shut up Alex, you ruggedly-handsome-and-charismatic workaholic; you’ll set a precedent the rest of us can’t live up to!” And yes, you’d be right – I probably do work harder in my chosen field than most people (all for you, dear readers). But frankly I’d rather be working than pissing away the pittance The Fixer pays me on cheap whiskey and other boredom quick-fixes. I’m just wired that way: if I’m not constantly stimulated I get bored, my mind gets flaccid and my gut expands. Holidays, for this reason, suck.

Of course, a lot of people hate their jobs. And frankly, I don’t blame them; all those people rotting away in cubicles from nine to five, doing meaningless tasks, filing reports, drinking bad coffee and reading stupid opinion blogs on the internet to keep from contemplating suicide. I was out for a smoke with Jeff at Keep Your Coins this morning, and he mentioned a study he’d read (which I managed to locate) that suggested almost nine million Americans drink at work. With the kind of jobs people are forced to do just to be afforded the privilege (and don’t kid yourself, it’s a privilege) of eating and having a roof over their heads, I’m actually surprised the number isn’t higher.

drinking at work

So I guess for those people, holidays make sense. But do we really need to have so many of them?

Here’s the list of statutory (i.e. nobody has to work) holidays in Ontario.

Jan 1 – New Years Day

Feb 16 – Family Day

Apr 10 – Good Friday

Apr 13 – Easter Monday

May 18 – Victoria Day

Jul 1 – Canada Day

Aug 3 – Civic Holiday

Sept 7 – Labour Day

Oct 12 – Thanksgiving

Dec 25 – Christmas Day

Dec 26 – Boxing Day

So let’s milk it, shall we?

First on the docket: New Years Day. I have a fondness for New Years – a lot of people say it’s the perfect time to revamp your life, set new goals, et cetera, but I think it’s just like St. Patrick’s Day, except with fewer obnoxious faux-Irish accents and you actually get the next day off. That, and there’s more chance of snagging a New Years kiss – you might get something like that on St. Pat’s, but it usually winds up requiring a bottle of antibiotics. But thanks to my close relationship with the drinking culture, New Years gets a pass.

new years

Family Day. Great googly-moogly. Dalton McGuinty should be lynched for coming up with this farce. Nobody spends Family Day with their families, and you know why? Because there’s nothing to do. Everything is closed, up to and including the Liquor Store, which is – to be fair – a necessary part of any James family gathering. According to the Ministry of Labour’s website, this inexplicable day off during the worst weather of the year is to accommodate the fact that “Ontarians work very hard…the time between New Years and Easter is long and people need a rest.

zappa middle finger

Oh give me a goddamned break. Is the time between New Years and Easter long? Yeah, it’s about four months. It also encompasses what is, for me at least, the most depressing time of year mostly due to the shitty weather (which is why I definitely want a day off during that time to sit in my room looking out the window at grey sky, grey leafless trees and brown snow, drink myself into a stupor and cry myself to sleep). But “people need a rest”? Okay, if your job is to get the shit kicked out of you by autistic teenagers all day long, like one friend of mine, then you’ve got a case. But if you’re sitting on your ass in a super-lighted office all day, picking your nose with a paper clip and pretending to file TPS reports while surfing Facebook and posting libellous statements about your boss which will inevitably get you fired, then suck it up, stop acting like a pussy and get back to work. The rest of us do; you should too.

wasting time at work

Okay, okay, the parents are going to get up in arms about this, because I’ve heard the rumour about how parents like to spend time with their kids. But chances are, your kids don’t want to spend time with you. They’d rather play Xbox and drink sugar and surf the internet for FAQs on ways to annoy crotchety blog writers. Bottom line: Family Day doesn’t make the grade. Cut.

Good Friday / Easter Monday: this one gets lumped, because it’s all part of the same comeback story. JC, alleged son of the Christian God (with a capital “G”), gets nailed to a tree by a bunch of people far less cool than him, dies horribly, only to resurrect himself a few days later and discover he’s been sealed in a cave. Using whatever superpowers his illustrious father granted him, he heaves the big-ass rock away from the cave door and launches himself into the sky, headed for Heaven, with the promise to come back someday to lay the smack-down on the sinners whilst ushering the more fortunate to their new digs inside the Pearly Gates.

jesus on cross

Cute story, and despite not being a Christian I actually think rather highly of Jesus, so I’m tempted to give this one a pass. However, in my experience, Easter weekend turns into a four-day debacle involving tedious family obligations most of which I’ve no desire to attend, far too much rich food I can’t digest, at least one mandatory argument between family members resulting in shattered glass, and the stupid fucking Superbowl. I hate football, and I really hate the fact that I have to take two days off work, unpaid, so somebody else can observe their religious beliefs. Cut.

hate football

Victoria Day. Quick poll – everybody knows that Queen Victoria was, well, a queen. Can anybody tell me anything she ever did, apart from being born into a family of inbred bluebloods thousands of miles away from this country, even remotely noteworthy? At all? Ever? I’ll wait.

queen victoria

Here’s the second part of the quiz. Can anybody tell me the colloquial, much more common name under which we know this holiday? Don’t all raise your hands at once, you’re all correct. It’s May 2-4. Anybody know why? Right again – it’s the holiday where we don’t even bother paying lip service to some dead queen’s birthday apart from the fireworks (and I’d like to extend a special thank-you to all the drunken assholes of the Toronto area who figure apartment complexes and residential streets are a good place to set up your own personal Symphony of Fire – I didn’t need those windows anyway); instead we spend our time getting shittered on somebody’s balcony our out in public on patios. And that’s just fine with me. Pass.

molson canadian

Canada Day: I’m not really one for the whole “national pride” thing, but if every other country gets to do it, why not little old Canada? I really hate nationalism, especially when it’s of the obnoxious American variety (America, Fuck No), but Canadian national pride tends to be a little more understated, so I’ll let this one go too.

canadian flag

Civic Holiday: It’s in August, the weather is typically good, and the O.P.P. cleans up on drunk drivers all weekend long. But there are cottagers, tourists all over my city, and I’m not a fan of August heat. Furthermore, this holiday has the distinction of being the only one on this list that isn’t a statutory holiday – it’s typically only observed by government employees. Like these people don’t have enough perks as it is? Cut.

government sucks

Labour Day: This one is kind of interesting, actually. It has its roots, unsurprisingly, in labour unions – the first official Labour Day was back in 1872, the date of a showdown between police and members of the 27 unions of the Toronto Trade Assembly (TTA), who had staged a parade in support of the Typographical Union’s strike. As a result of the pressure put on Sir John A. Macdonald’s government, the anti-union laws (which had since been abolished in Great Britain) were repealed in Canada as well.

So it’s a holiday that makes sense. It’s also one of a very few holidays in Canada to feature a parade, and what an odd parade it is. There’s little fanfare, no real floats to speak of, no bands, and no sickly-sweet commentators to fuck up everyone’s day. It’s just a chance for some of the unions we tend to take for granted to get out in the public and remind people what it is they actually do. One of my correspondents in the field snapped these pictures of the Power Workers Union taking part in the parade; they’re in the middle of working through a new energy plan with the provincial government, so it’s definitely worth it for them to be in the public eye as much as possible.

power workers union

power worker's union truck

I consider myself a freelancer by trade, so union politics aren’t really my forte, but I kind of dig the day-before-school vibe of this holiday, so it can stay.

Thanksgiving. More football, and turkey. This is basically Easter: The Fall Edition, without the religious overtones. Also – pilgrims, Natives, syphilis. Need I say more? Cut.


Christmas Day: I can’t cut Christmas; I just can’t do it. Despite the fact that it seems to start earlier and earlier every year (I’m saving my full Christmas rant for the festive season) and I did cut Easter, there’s just too much wrapped up in that season for me to justify cutting it. That, and I don’t want a bunch of furious Christians showing up at my door with a very special Easter-edition Christmas tree cut to just the right height. I take some issue with the religious undertones of this holiday as much as I did with Easter, but Christmas is engrained in mainstream culture to the point where cutting it would make me out to be some weirdo uber-PC hippie who is offended by everything. And I`m offended by them, so it stays.

santa corporate

Boxing Day: Normally I would be opposed to such blatant consumerist bullshit the day after the greatest consumer shit festival in the history of modern civilization finally ended, but I tend to have a little more egg nog than is really good for me on Christmas, so I can definitely use the day after to recover. Boxing Day gets a pass too.

So the final tally is:

For the “pass” category: New Years, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas/Boxing Day.

In the “cut” pile: Family Day, Good Friday/Easter, Civic Holiday and Thanksgiving.

Personally, I think five holidays a year (especially considering how many of them are motivated by avoiding hangovers) is more than enough.

How do I rank up against your standards? Respond in the comment section. Feel free to tell me I’m a workaholic, a drunk, or both.

In the meantime, I’m going to embark on what is destined to be a very, very long walk home, unless the lunch money I invested in a ProLine ticket pays off. Yes, I gambled away my last three dollars on the off chance I might get a thirty-dollar windfall. Sue me. On the other hand, don’t – I’m still paying off this computer.

You’re welcome.

14 Responses to “Time Off Sucks: Why Canada Has Too Many Holidays”

  1. Moot. September 15, 2009 at 4:55 PM #

    I didn’t read this entire thing. You sit around on a couch more than Homer Simpson. This argument is Moot.

  2. the mule September 15, 2009 at 5:04 PM #

    I didn’t read it all myself, probably due to the fact that I, unlike you, don’t actually like wasting my time. Yet you claim you keep yourself occupied or “stimulated” when in actuality you are doing so with something of as little importance as watching an episode of the Red Green show. (this very blog post)

    Anyway, holidays are good because not all of us are as easily fooled as you in thinking they are “stimulating” their minds.

    Luckily for you I do not hate, I love, so I forgive you but get your head out of your ass!

    eat shit and die,
    the mule

  3. the mule September 15, 2009 at 5:07 PM #

    oh but frank zappa is a god.

  4. Chris D September 15, 2009 at 5:20 PM #

    DUDE – Bill Gates retired!

    You forgot:

    Wayne Gretzky Day

    Kiss a Moose Day


    Canada Geese are Back Day

  5. Brent Chittenden September 15, 2009 at 5:35 PM #

    The truth of the matter is two fold.

    Alex, you don’t work for a living. And I’m not saying tht as an asshole thing to say or you don’t have a real job I am saying it in the terms decreed by the god of thunder himself, Gene Simmons.

    “It’s not work when you love your job.”

    You like your job, therefore it isn’t work. You like coming in everyday and getting paid for what you do.

    Unfortunately Alex, not everyone does, some have jobs that sucks ass. You’ve never worked in say an auto plant for instance. You’ve never unclogged a pipe of raw sewage nor have you ever ever worked construction.

    Now go back to when you worked at your crappiest job that you got paid for holidays for. Either something food oriented or retail.

    Now if someone had told you in the midst of doing the shitiest part of that shitty job that “Hey, let’s get rid of Canada Day and a few other holidays”

    What do you think your response would be?

    And don’t even try to bullshit about it.

    Some of us love our jobs, not all of us are that lucky. Had someone told me I was going to lose five holidays when I was a collector for Canada’s-largest-rent-to-own-chain-that-the-first-part-of-the-name-sounds-like-sleazy I would have told them to go fuck themselves.

    With a rake.

    Up the ass.

    With the rake end.

    Not to mention the fact that we’re pretty middle of the road for holidays. Most places in Europe have a lot more.

    While your point about some of the reasons are being out dated or no longer relevent is somewhat valid, it’s kind of like saying that in a few years the U.S. should get rid of Martin Luther King Day (well okay the states that celebrate it) because he’s been dead. Or Mexico get rid of Day of the Dead because all of the participants are in fact breathing.

    Keep in mind, you would get the Jewish holidays off if you were in fact Jewish as well as Muslim holidays, employers are legally required to if you present it to them and you can not be fired for them either.

  6. Meaghan September 15, 2009 at 6:18 PM #

    Okay, I am going to have to respond to each of these in turn. Maybe not in order.

    1) Easter Monday is NOT a statutory holiday in Ontario (see the retail business holidays act). It is a government holiday, meaning government offices, and courts are closed. But they get Rememberance Day off too.

    2) Victoria Day: Victoria was the longest reigning English monarch, part of the industrial revolution and responsible for one of the largest legal overhauls in English history (now you aren’t executed for shooting a small rodent on royal lands). To say nothing of the whole “ruling the entire British Empire, including England, Ireland, Wales, and India”. She was also the last official empress of India. (I know I’m a history major, but this was not my period of study, this was off the top of my head).

    3) Boxing day originally had nothing to do with shopping. It was a day off for the “masses” who usually had to work on Christmas day anyways. It was also a time for “lords and masters” to give gifts to the people who worked for them. It’s called Boxing Day because they often recycled the boxes they had recieved gifts in the day before.

    4) Family Day was a stupid name, sure. But the point was so that little workers who don’t make a lot of money and don’t get vacation have a little time off.

    Now, here is the other side to all these vacations that you hate so much. You might not get paid but I get time and a half for working. The pay bonus is kinda nice and I get an extra day off down the road.

    The downside for me? Due to my shitty schedule, I don’t get any holidays off that fall on a Monday. In fact, unless they fall on a Sat or Sun (Christmas/Boxing Day or New Years) I don’t get them off at all.

    Quit whining, you might not like holidays but the rest of us do. And if you need to keep your mind “stimulated” get off the internet and read a book.

  7. Alex James September 15, 2009 at 11:52 PM #

    To Mule:

    A) You didn’t read it all. Therefore your opinion is already flawed.

    B) If I aped an episode of Red Green, I didn’t know — because I don’t watch that show, or any television for that matter. Ergo, you lose by default.

    Eating shit and thriving,

    Alex James

  8. Alex James September 15, 2009 at 11:54 PM #

    And my dear Meaghan: thank you for your commentary. But you must remember it’s my job to piss you off — you and everybody that takes exception to overreaching internet writers. Before you accuse me of whining I’d point out that you took the time to respond to some random article you found online — who is wasting whose time here, precisely? Thanks for your readership. ;)

  9. Ashley September 16, 2009 at 11:19 AM #

    Two things: Technically, isn’t the Civic Holiday in August known as Simcoe Day? Pretty sure you should have known that Alex. Second, even though the LCBO is considered a government job and we do get quite a few holidays off, you certainly can’t claim we all get perks. Especially not the lowly casual with only a year or two seniority. Believe me, we get fucked over on a daily basis. I would gladly work more holidays so that my bills can get paid, but that’s me.

  10. Ryan September 16, 2009 at 2:14 PM #

    Compared to the rest of the world, us Canadians work like dogs, generally speaking. The few random holidays peppered throughout our calendar year don’t even closely add up to the amount of time siesta-ing and afternoon napping in Europe and parts of Asia. (Apart from maybe Japan – I think it’s safe to say they have the rest of the universe beat when it comes to work output.) Keeping busy is good, but in a global context it could be a lot worse if holidays aren’t your friend.

  11. Computers & Tech September 19, 2009 at 2:47 AM #

    Hello there,
    Nice blog, I just stumbled upon it and I am already a fan.

  12. Canadian Sports Chick September 19, 2009 at 9:33 AM #

    I only have one question what does the Superbowl (which is in February) have to do with Easter???


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