Let's unite the nation with more festivals and public holidays | Matt Mohan-Hickson

The sound of laughter wafts prominently through the late spring afternoon.

By Matt Mohan-Hickson
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 9:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 9:02 am

It spreads from each and every direction on a street that could be anywhere in Britain. It passes portable pizza ovens, barbecues, tables laden with food and coolers full of beer. It emanates from the bouncy castle as the youngest ones go feral and lose themselves in the revelry.

Young and old, united in having the excuse to waste away a warm, sunny afternoon in each other's company.

As the scenes up and down the nation showed at the weekend, Britain knows how to celebrate a special occasion.

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Residents of Vernon Road, Gosport, enjoying their jubilee street party. Picture: Mike Cooter (040622)

It was the same in 2012, when we had the double whammy of Olympics and Diamond Jubilee.

Yet now we shall wait adrift, not knowing when the next collective national celebration will take place. The next time all of us will let our hair down at the same time.

Because, not to be cruel, but it does not seem likely that the Queen will make it to her Oak Jubilee – given she would have to be well over a century old.

It feels such a shame that these moments of collective celebration, of community get-togethers and street parties, are so rare (on the whole).

My girlfriend, who comes from the Valencia region of Spain, was shocked at the lack of public holidays (in the sense of this jubilee not bank holidays in general) and local festivities.

Every town and village across Valencia has its own festival each year, featuring days off work and school, events such as bull running for example, although that one doesn’t need importing.

There are other festivals throughout the year, especially around Easter and given the strong Catholic traditions in Spain, that isn’t surprising. Take a moment to look up Las Fallas, which is a bit like bonfire night on steroids.

It is not just Spain, we are just a month away from July 4 for example, and on May 17 it was Norway’s national day, when the country parties for a whole day and everything grinds to a halt.

If other nations can make more of their public holidays, why can’t we? We could all do with more events and celebrations to look forward to.


The obvious choice for a day to turn into a public holiday with proper festivities and celebrations would be St George’s Day.

But if, by some divine provenance, I was given the power to create one - I would certainly avoid England’s patron saint.

It would comes with too much baggage and would be divisive to many. It would also run the risk of being co-opted by bad actors.

Instead, I would suggest resurrecting the ancient celebration of St John’s Eve.

It is based around the saint’s day of John the Baptist and takes place on June 23.

Now this, of course, is just after the solstice and used to be celebrated with bonfires and festivities after the sun went down.

So you could have street parties that run on into the evening turning into the lighting of bonfires. Whole days of fun and frolics.

What would you choose and for what reason?

Do write and let me know.​​​​


However, if I could create an extra public holiday - one element that I would definitely avoid is the embarrassment of a pageant.

I managed to stomach the Platinum Jubilee pageant on Sunday for about 15 minutes, when it featured the armed forces marching.

But once the entire parade slipped into the kaleidoscope of weirdness it became all too much.

It began to feel like someone had spiked my lunch with hallucinogens (anyone else feel the same way?).

Now I do admit, my feelings might be because I am a grouch and possess the attention span of a goldfish.

At least the concert on Saturday night had some good tunes (and those important messages about the environment).

But I suppose, and I must concede, part of what makes a good public holiday is just a little bit of cringe and cheesiness.

And this jubilee would not have been the same without it.