Cancel Christmas?

2012-06-21 13:19

Georgina Guedes

A series of public meetings on the revision of public holidays started in Durban’s City Hall this morning. The event has been arranged by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities after a number of complaints were received about the fact that South Africa’s public holidays only acknowledge Christian days of observation.

I am sympathetic to this complaint. Although South Africa might be a predominantly Christian country, we claim to pay heed to the cultural diversity of our citizens, and to have separation of church and state, but the government still tends to lay Christianity on pretty thick.

At the same time, we’re a little too heavy on the public holidays as it is – especially in April – and so the obvious solution of simply adding a couple more from other faiths doesn’t strike me as particularly sensible.

And abolishing Christian public holidays to make space certainly won’t wash with the majority of South Africans – I think that’s the sort of behaviour that gets politely referred to as election suicide.

Every company where I’ve worked has quietly worked around the religious holidays of other faiths, accepting that those people don’t come in on those days. As far as I know, they’ve never had to take annual leave for those days, and they certainly haven’t come in over Easter or Christmas to make up for it.

But I’m sure that other, less sympathetic industries might pressurise their staff to come in on their religious holidays, and refuse to pay them double pay or overtime for doing so.

So what then is the solution? Most of our public holidays are days of importance to certain segments of our population – whether for reasons of religion, politics or reconciliation – and I don’t think that our economy could take the strain of more working days lost to government-sanctioned downtime.

Perhaps, instead, every citizen, regardless of faith or lack thereof, should receive a bundle of four “days of observation” in a year for them to allocate wherever they see fit. The standard Christian holidays should then be scrapped, although most people will naturally fall into the pattern of a March or April and December break in line with tradition.

This is a solution that should accept the diversity of beliefs of all citizens, but give them the flexibility to observe their own faith without professional or academic judgement being passed.

And atheists can drive to work on days when there’s no traffic, and enjoy a hot sauna and massage on any other day they see fit, four times a year.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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  • jannie.devos.56 - 2012-06-21 13:37

    I hear you loud and clear and I fully support your ideas. However, I somehow cannot see it coming off. The 'political suicide' thing, of course. I can't see any government sticking its neck out and meddle with the Christmas and Easter holidays...

  • reg.pitcher - 2012-06-21 13:38

    Spot on great idea

  • craig.scheepers.1 - 2012-06-21 14:22

    Idiots! try doing this civil rights and religieous observation of minorities C**p in Pakistan, Saudi etc. Once again the western softies are bowing down to the modern day Pinky and the brains bunch, All they wanna do today is take over the world. Come on Western Christians! Grow a Pair!

      Vaaldonkie - 2012-06-21 15:26

      Zaatheist is being willingly obtuse again.

      zaatheist - 2012-06-21 15:37

      @VaalDonkie In what way?

      charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-06-21 15:37

      in the zaidiot way

      Roslyn Rose - 2012-06-21 19:22

      Amazing how atheists can suddenly believe in someone when it suits them - if Jesus doesnt exist, how can He care!

  • Barry - 2012-06-21 14:39

    These holidays, especially Christmas & Easter have been heavily commercialised, perhaps commercial interests of all faiths would resist the change as over time the holidays may lose commercial value. If Christian public holidays were no longer gazetted and observance of the holidays fall into line with how other faiths and belief systems have had to over the years, no doubt employers would be accomodating as they have been to all other faiths? It seems the other public holidays would accommodate those not belonging to a faith. A bit of trivia is that the word 'holiday' is derived from 'Holy Day'. The observance of a sabbath and therefore a conversion to a 7 day work week may also be possible based on the proposal... Oops, maybe we should just let sleeping dogs lie... :D

  • andre.barendse.7 - 2012-06-21 15:00

    Its a good idea, but... I can already see another holiday declared. It will be called: "We love President Georgina" - day!

  • dntdschultz - 2012-06-21 15:16

    As I see it,in most companies (and here I'm refering to the retail type),they have already done away with Easter and Christmas. These days are no longer celebrated by the majority for the true aspect that they should. How many more days off would this country like?

  • zaatheist - 2012-06-21 15:20

    I think we should can all public holidays and give everyone 7 days extra leave a year to be taken whenever they wish. Will make a big contribution to lowering the road carnage on those long weekends.

  • Vaaldonkie - 2012-06-21 15:22

    Christmas is NOT a Christian holiday. It has Pagan roots and has become a secular family-oriented holiday.

      charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-06-21 15:30

      But you'll take it off and share it with the Christians anyway. hypocrite

      Vaaldonkie - 2012-06-21 16:24

      Of course. I love my family and I'll grab any chance I can to be with them. The same with Boxing day and New year's day. But to include Christmas in the Christian holiday list is disingenuous.

      Roulon du Toit - 2012-06-22 18:31

      The pagan roots are so far back in history that its pagan meaning has lost all signficance. Now it is viewed worldwide (except in some deliberately obtuse crowds) as a Christian holiday, whether it is celebrated or not. You are basically stuck hundreds of years in the past. Go into the street and ask each person you see what religion Christmas is associated with. When you find someone that says "an ancient pagan religion", you should really consider being together.

  • lona.vezi - 2012-06-21 15:51

    I am a Christian but I ve 2 admit we r natured more than other faiths.

      zaatheist - 2012-06-21 16:50

      What awful writing. How old are you?

      Roslyn Rose - 2012-06-21 18:58

      ZAatheist will you now please comment in Zulu or Xhosa so that we may rip apart your attempts at masytering a second or third language?

      zaatheist - 2012-06-21 19:25

      @Roslyn Rose This has nothing to to with an ability to write English but just slapgat text speech.

  • Cathy Wagner - 2012-06-21 18:19

    W atheists would probably celebrate Newtonmas on 25th :December, Isaac Newtons date of birth, as well as Darwin Day and Carl Sagan's birthday. I'm all in favour of that suggestion!

  • Cathy Wagner - 2012-06-21 18:20

    Agreed. It is a pagan festival that has been hijacked by religion. As an atheist I have no problem with it because it really has nothing to do with JC! Same with Easter, the pagan fertility festival :-)

      zaatheist - 2012-06-21 18:38

      Why don't we hold it on 21st which was the original date. The summer solstice.

      Roslyn Rose - 2012-06-21 18:55

      hahahaha and so the ignorant will rule the world!

      zaatheist - 2012-06-21 19:27

      Roslyn Rose Aha. A fundie. A woman nogal. Do you realise how much the god despises you? "No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman..... Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die"; (Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24) Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Ephesians 5:22-24) Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (Corinthians 14:34-36) When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening. - [Leviticus 15:19-20]

  • kevin.levin.31 - 2012-06-21 22:16

    I don't know how to say this but : "we follow the gregorian calender" which is the christian calender with christian holidays including news day if you really think about it. Anno domini anyone, even the year is a christian count. I've got no problems with other religious holidays, maybe a pool system needs to be introduced for the christian New year, easter and christmas, that's 4 days. If you not christian, then you get to work these days as a normal day(no double pay cause I won't get double pay when you take your days, overtime rates only on YOUR holidays). LOL atheists don't get any days cause to them it will be a waste. Option 2, we make a new completely calender ANCYL style

  • lianna.danielz - 2012-06-22 07:36

    And they say this is a democratic country by taking away Christian holidays is a communist idea why not let us vote on it who gives the government the right to just remove Christian holidays that have been around for hundreds of years and these religious occasions are celebrated world wide!!!!!!

  • deirdre.maule - 2012-06-22 15:15

    While I agree with the idea that everybody should receive equal representation, I think that the Govt should think really hard about scrapping these two holidays. Neither Christmas nor Easter are Christian holidays (they are both based on pagan/heathen celebrations), and for the government to do away with them would be economic suicide, almost every business in SA relies on the boost they get from these two seasons.

      Wendy - 2012-06-22 18:42

      They ARE Christian holidays. The fact they coincide with pagan celebrations is irrelevant. It's like arguing that if we share the same birth date, that when I'm celebrating my birthday, I'm actually celebrating yours!

  • Mark Aubrey Preiss - 2012-06-24 05:55

    Forget the holidays, why not scrap the mall and shops being open on Sunday's! We have so lost our Christian ways, hence the problems and issues we sit with today! Let's bring back God in our lives and then we will all be better off !

  • mich.kondogiannis - 2012-06-25 07:47

    Jesus loves you too ZAAtheist....John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"

      elvis.bolokang - 2012-07-03 15:25


  • mathohotshilidzi.eric.5 - 2012-11-12 06:37

    the devil is a liar, christmas and easter 'll not be changed. Take off your hands off de christian holiday. Dont compare christian with ada religons. Christ Jesus is your Creator. Believe it or not. Amen! Everyone

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