Holidays and vacations in Brazil

A very unusual sequence of holidays here in Rio, and the apparent warm welcome to my previous post on April Fool’s have prompted me to write about holidays.

In Portuguese, a holiday is called “feriado”. It comes from the same Latin root as “férias”, our word for vacation. In ancient Rome, feriae were the days that Roman citizens didn’t have to work. The Christian Church took upon itself to make these non-working days into days of prayer, “holy days”, and what we call “feriado” in Portuguese, English speaking people call holiday.

Vacation, or “ferias” in Portuguese, comes from a different Latin root, but with a similar meaning. Vacare means empty, or free. Vacation is a collection of free days. The word vacuum has the same origin…

Here in Rio, a fortunate sequence of holidays almost turned into real vacation! For those abroad, we celebrate a national holiday on April 21st. It is a tribute to Tiradentes, a national hero from the days that Brazil was still a Portuguese Colony. Only two days later, April 23rd, we observe Saint George’s day. It is a state holiday. And in between, the 22nd, is Discovery Day (when the Portuguese first landed in Brazil, back in 1500). Not an official holiday, but squeezed in between Tiradentes and St. George’s, a lot of people just don’t work!

By a happy coincidence, April 21st was a Monday this year. So if you count the weekend, that’s an extra two days off. But it was not just any Monday, but the Monday after Easter Sunday! And that is quite a coincidence, since Easter fluctuates in our Gregorian Calendar. The religious rule has a lot of Astronomy in it, and says that Sunday Easter shall be the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the March Equinox.

And, of course, if Easter Sunday was April 20th, just before Tiradentes, Holy Friday, another national holiday (and a true holy day!) was on the 18th. All in all, if you got to skip work on the 22nd, you worked on Thursday, the 17th, and got a whole week off, only to return on Thursday, the 24th!

Don’t get me wrong. I do love my work. But with a six year old at home, I deeply appreciated the break! But now it is over. It is back to work. But just for a while! Next week is May 1st, Labor Day. And nobody works on Labor Day! ■