Today is Canada Day and so we have a long weekend here in Canada. It’s another thing I enjoy about repatriating, knowing exactly when the holidays will be and that we will get time off from work (actually that’s 2 things).
We spent 8 years in the Middle East where many of the public holidays are religious ones. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, each year the holidays move forward about 11 or 12 days. Many Muslim countries rely on their scientists to tell them when the holidays will fall and the dates are fixed well in advance, but the UAE still relies on a “Moon Sighting Committee” to go out into the desert (to get away from the bright city lights) and literally look for the new moon before these important events are proclaimed. It’s a charming tradition, but not only does it mean the dates are often different in the UAE than elsewhere, it also means they’re unknown until the night before the holiday starts.
For expats this creates a bit of a problem if you’re planning a short getaway. When you’re booking time off work you have to play Russian roulette with your vacation days, as they may or may not get used depending on when exactly the holiday falls.
To make things even more complicated there is no requirement for companies to give you a day off in lieu if the holiday falls on a weekend, and many choose not to do so, even western ones. With Eid holidays lasting 2 or 3 days twice a year, it seemed you’d always ‘lose’ at least a day or two.
And on the topic of weekends, that too can cause problems. When we first moved to Dubai the local weekend was Thursday and Friday. All government offices were closed, and because the Ministry of Education was closed, all schools, even international ones, had to close too. Many companies that did business outside of the Middle East chose to take a Friday-Saturday weekend, to avoid being out of touch for 4 days of the week.
As a result expat families with children ended up with a Thursday-Friday-Saturday weekend-ish, which was really neither one thing nor the other. It worked well for those who liked a day exclusively with the children and a day exclusively with their spouse (with Friday as the true family day sandwiched in between), but I found it a difficult adjustment to make.
Fortunately by the time we returned to Dubai for our second stint, they had switched to a Friday-Saturday weekend, but it still took me many years to get my head around Sunday being a workday.
Here in Canada our holidays are either firm dates on the calendar (like July 1) or tied to a long weekend (like Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October). In the years we were away they even added a new holiday – Family Day – on the 3rd Monday in February. In a country with a long cold winter it’s a welcome respite during the long slog between Christmas and Easter. But enough words, it’s sunny and warm outside and the barbeque is calling . . .