During my childhood in the years leading up to the Second World War holidays were different from today both in quantity and in the places where most people spent them. My father, together with most others, was allowed two weeks holiday with pay at dates negotiated each year, and except in my earliest days this had to coincide with school holiday times (some things don’t change). In addition there were Bank Holidays, but fewer than we have now.
My parents had a liking for the Kent coast, and early holidays were taken at Broadstairs and Herne Bay, though toward the end of the 1930s they gravitated to Hythe, having found a congenial place there. I don’t think I’m indulging in selective memory when I say that I remember only one occasion when it rained in the daytime, though I clearly remember a number of times when there was a noisy thunderstorm during the night. Much of the time was naturally spent on the beach and I have a vivid memory of the local population turning out to help in launching the lifeboat when there was an emergency – sadly this craft was lost during the Dunkirk evacuation and was never replaced.
Bank Holidays in the winter were Christmas Day and Boxing Day only, but in the other seasons they were on the Mondays following Easter Day and Whit Sunday (now known as Pentecost) as well as on the first Monday in August – yes, things have changed in this respect; we now have extra days for New Year and May Day(or rather the first Monday thereafter), while the Late Spring Bank Holiday takes the place of Whit Monday, and the August Bank Holiday has been moved to the last Monday of the month – there’s even a suggestion that we should have more Bank Holidays in order to keep up with Europe!
What I did not realise as a child was that holidays had their origin in Holy Days, which were/are special days in the calendar of the Christian Church during which no work was done. During my teenage years I encountered the additional concept that holidays were times of re-creation. Some residue of these ideas continues in the secular view of holidays, but in the end holidays are what we make of them, which is inevitably related to the basis on which we live. So, may your holidays be a time of blessing.
John Castleton (Reader)