While living in Argentina, I have been experiencing los feriados. In general, a national holiday has a meaning, an emotional meaning, tied to the history of the country: the date of establishment, independence or an otherwise significant event. In my opinion, celebrating an important historical day improves and intensifies the solidarity of the people in a given country.

Argentina has a national holiday almost every month and in September 2012 the country was named the leader in the number of national holidays. Although the nation has an impressive past and a long and interesting history, it appears to me that national holidays in Argentina don’t necessarily commemorate a special event. Interestingly, many national holidays fall on either Monday or Friday, and even when they don’t, Argentines have the tendency to hacer la puente and move midweek holidays to Monday or Friday in order to enjoy a longer weekend. Why not just prolong the weekends and have real ‘holidays’ instead of calling it just one?

In 2010, President Cristina Fernández had a similar idea. With the introduction of the Holiday Act, she increased the number of national holidays (feriados) or bank holidays, meaning that business close and banks aren’t open during their regular hours. She also secured the Monday and Tuesday of Carnival, which is celebrated in February, as additional days off and tried to move certain national holidays to other days in order to create even more long weekends.

In addition to appeasing the work force, which officially receives only 10 days off per year, these long weekends also provoke more tourism within Argentina. People take advantage of having a few extra days off to travel, but since a long weekend is not really long enough to travel beyond Argentina’s borders, people tend to travel to and explore other parts of the country.
Obviously, creating more tourism in the country has positive implications for the development of the Argentine economy. As the Minister of Tourism Enrique Meyer said, “With the adoption of the new system of holidays, announced by President Cristina Fernández, all areas involved with tourism can now enjoy greater predictability in their businesses, and we can ensure a steady stream of visitors to tourist destinations throughout the year, thus reducing the harmful effects of low seasonality.” He also noted that “tourism is a strategic industry for national development”. You can read more about the idea behind creating long weekends: http://www.losandes.com.ar/notas/2012/9/25/argentina-lider-mundial-feriados-nacionales-669350.asp

Argentina is certainly not lacking in natural beauty, so you won’t be bored on these days off. A trip to Mar del Plata, Puerto Madryn, Patagonia, Mendoza, Córdoba, el campo outside of Buenos Aires, or even just staying in Buenos Aires, will make your mini-break a pleasure, whether it is a romantic one or a more active and adventurous one. What a shame that the next holiday, Immaculate Conception Day, which will be celebrated on Saturday December 8 2012, could not be moved to a Monday!

Getzels, R., 22 November 2010, The Rush on Leisure: Argentina’s New Holiday Law, The Argentina Independent