Spanish bank holiday barney: Should August 15 be a day off for all?

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AUGUST 15, falling on a Saturday this year, is a traditional bank holiday, or Dia de Fiesta, in Spain. The day celebrates the religious feast of the Assumption, but across much of the Costa del Sol it coincides with the first day of town and city fairs, the biggest of which is the Malaga feria.

With the fairs being such a big draw for tourists, from abroad but also with Spaniards travelling from all over the country to take part in one of the year’s most enthusiastically celebrated parties, Costa towns will be packed over the weekend. 

And many businesses have decided that would be a crazy time to shut up shop for the day. Most supermarkets will be opening, at least until 3pm, with many treating the holiday as a normal working day, and other shops are following suit.

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There has been a shift in Spain towards abandoning some traditional holidays, and the government has made clear their intention to cut the number of dias de fiestas throughout the year.

Trade unions, however, are not happy and they say they are reflecting the anger of their members. 

There is the perception that Spain has more bank holidays than the rest of Europe. In fact, there are only eight official national holidays this year, the same number as the UK and the lowest in Europe, although each region will also add its own official holidays. France has 12 bank holidays, while Denmark, widely believed to be a hard-working country, has 14. Cyprus tops the league at 17 national holidays this year.

On top of that, people in Spain work long hours each week – the average working week in Spain is the third longest in the EU, behind Portugal and Greece, busting the stereotypes of all three nations as lazy. 

However, with Spain currently clawing its way into recovery, some would argue this is hardly the time to quibble about taking advantage of crowds of tourists eager to spend their holiday cash, and Saturday August 15 is a day to take full advantage and make those tills ring out like church bells to welcome in the fair.

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