Christmas is, as Andy Williams sang, the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ because to the majority of us it means a couple well deserved long weekends. The idea of getting extra time off work, which doesn’t involve precious holiday leave, frankly makes it quite ‘wonderful’, especially for those living in countries with stingy holiday leave entitlements (take out your violin for people living in China and the Phillippines who only get 5 days annual leave!) In Argentina too there is elation at this ‘holiday’ season but with 19 public holidays a year, a day off work is not an unusual occurrence.
Since her election in 2007, President Kirchner has added 5 bank holidays to the already bulging list and that now means the country tops the charts for the most public holidays in the world. To add to these you have regional holidays within each province and every profession has their own unique day off during the calendar too: student’s day, teacher’s day, plumber’s day, shop assistant’s day… The list goes on, but here’s a scaled down version of holidays in Argentina for 2013 and how they are celebrated:
Christmas: 25th December (& a half day on 24th)
Families gather to spend Christmas Eve drinking and eating huge dinners until midnight when everyone steps outside the house for a barrage of fireworks. While the kids are outside oohing and ahhing, Father Christmas sneaks inside and delivers all the gifts. Manic present unwrapping unfolds and then the young at heart party on in nightclubs until the wee hours of the morning. Christmas Day usually involves a big barbecue.
New Year – 1st January (& a half day on 31st Dec)
One week later the same happens again. Celebrations are pretty similar, with the exception of no present giving and some families following their Spanish heritage by eating 12 grapes on the strike of midnight. Partying all night, hangovers and a full-blown asado all follow in due course.
Bicentenary of the Constituent Assembly: 31st January
2012 saw a couple unique bicentenary holidays for political landmarks, and so 2013 also has a special holiday too – this time for the Constituent Assembly Bicentenary. As a new holiday there isn’t really anything planned, probably just a nice summer BBQ with friends.
Carnival – February 11th & 12th February
You may have thought that Carnival was just for Brazil but President Kirchner decided to reinstate it into Argentine culture too. Most of the country use it as an excuse to sleep in late but in eastern Argentina (especially in Gualeguaychú) you can see some people shake a few tail feathers!
Battle of Salta – 20th February
Another new one for 2013, celebrating one of the independence battles. Some people in Salta might re-enact the battle or dress traditionally for the day, but most will probably just throw a few more ribs on the BBQ.
Remembrance Day for Truth and Justice – 24th March
This is a quieter feriado where people remember the stolen children from the military dictatorship.
Good Friday – 29th March
The Easter calendar sees this Friday off work for Christ’s birth.
Malvinas Day – 2nd April (and 1st April – bonus tourist bridge day!)
An awkward day for British tourists, this day commemorates those that died in the Malvinas war. Because 2nd April falls on a Tuesday, Monday 1st has been declared another public holiday as a ‘touristic bridge’ so that people can use the long weekend for holidays. That makes Easter weekend a … wait for it… five day weekend this year! Got to love Argentina!
Worker’s Day – 1st May
So obviously no-one works.
First Day of National Government – 25th May
You’ll see a road in every city for this day as well as a public holiday.
Flag Day – 20th June (and 21st June – bonus tourist bridge day!)
Thought we’d seen a ‘tourism bridge’ already? Yep, but this time as Flag Day lands on a Thursday, so you can take the Friday off too. Flag Day is spent remembering the death of the flag creator, Manual Belgrano. Everyone likes flags when they result in a four day weekend.
Independence Day – 9th July
As if the first national government wasn’t enough, this is the holiday for when they declared independence, six years later.
San Martin’s Day – 19th August
This day celebrates Argentina’s liberator and all round hero, General San Martin. Although actual San Martin Day is the 17th, because this year that is a Saturday, the holiday has been moved back two days so everyone can get a day off on Monday. After all, there isn’t much point having a day off on the weekend. Lots of gauchos dress up and parade around for this holiday, before having an asado.
Dia del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural – 14th October
This is a tricky one, it used to be ‘Race Day’ celebrating Colombus’ arrival in the Americas but obviously this looks a bit racist nowadays. Instead of forgetting the holiday all together, it is now the mouthier ‘Day of respect for cultural diversity’. Again, it is normally on a different date (12th) but being a Saturday when everyone is off anyway, the public holiday is this year on a Monday.
Day of National Sovereignty – 25th November
Another embarrassing day for Brit tourists, but this time the French can share the blame… Memory of an 1845 battle against an Anglo-French blockade. It should actually be on Wednesday 20th, but it seems that the government just generally prefer for public holidays to land on a Monday. Otherwise they might need to call a two day ‘tourism bridge’… perhaps someone in charge decided that was a bit too excessive.
Virgin Mary’s Day – 8th December
You aren’t supposed to party too hard on this one, but don’t worry – it’s only just over two weeks till Christmas again.
By Amanda Barnes
Published in the December 2012/January 2013 edition of Wine Republic