It's 7:48pm in Tijuana, which makes it 9:48pm in Mexico City, and 3:48am in London. It is Tuesday 15th September. In an hour and a bit (9pm my time, 11pm in Mexico City, 7am Alan's time) the President will ring a bell. Several times. This is because nearly two hundred years ago Miguel Hidalgo rang a bell, summoning the Mexican people to war. Mexicans celebrate their independence on the 16th September. However, the celebrations start now, on the evening of the 15th.
They don't have 'Bank Holiday Mondays' in Mexico, but they do have days when the banks are shut. These are national holidays. They are fixed to dates rather than Mondays. Tomorrow (for me) is a day off work. The country will (semi) shut down, and everyone will get a chance to sleep off the hangover, that the majority of Mexicans are casually working their way towards as I type. As the President rings the bell he repeats the call to arms, he calls out the names of the heroes who have died defending Mexico, he mentions the names of the leaders of the independence. Each time he says something he prefaces each statement with ¡Viva! When he finishes, the crowd respond ¡Viva! At the end he will ring the bell another three times, ¡Viva Mexico! The reply is ¡Viva!
So, now you know, in case you are stuck in a Mexican bar tonight and a bell starts to ring. It isn't last orders, it's a call to arms. And the bar will be full. All the bars are full. And the streets are full. The majority of Mexicans will be out of the house tonight, together, waiting for that moment when they proclaim their readiness for Independence. It's a great evening. On of those things you should try to do before you die. Get yourself into a bar full of Mexicans on the 15th September.
And tomorrow is a day off work. There is a great advantage to having holidays on fixed dates, and there is a tremendous disadvantage. The good news is when the day falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, because when that happens I also get the Monday/Friday off, making it a very long weekend. This is fantastic in May when 1st, 5th, and 15th are days off. It is possible to get the 1st of May on a Thursday which means I don't go to work until Tuesday. If it falls on a Friday, no work until W*dnesd*y. However, there is a problem. When the date falls on a weekend, you get no day off work.
May 15th is my birthday (make a note), it is also teacher's day. Teacher's Day is a day to celebrate teachers (that's me), and to celebrate, they shut the schools! Whoot! A day off on my birthday! How cool is that? In four years of teaching it has become something I (sort of) expect. Therefore, can you imagine my disappointment when I discovered (as you discovered when you went to make a note of my b'day) that in 2010, the 15th May is on a Saturday. In 2011 it is on a Sunday. I don't get my day off work.
And those days off work are important. The majority of Mexicans work 9/10 hour days. Vacations are 6 days in the first year, 8 days in the second, 10 from then on (basically, after 3 years you qualify for two weeks holiday a year). So, national holidays are important because they are the "free" days, the days that don't count as part of your holiday allowance.
So, enjoy your holiday Alan. Know that I am also on holiday, and so is the whole of Mexico. However, we will all be back at work on Thursday. There are no "half term" holidays in Mexican schools, so the next day off is November 2nd. Hey ho.