Saturday, August 01, 2009


For several years now, I've been noticing a phenomenon in the United States that didn't exist 30 years ago, when the purportedly work-ethic conservatives first got naked power. It's something called Ferragosto in Italy, or the closing down of nearly everything, traditionally in the middle of August, now extended throughout western Europe to the whole month.

One notices it in Washington when Congress gets ready to leave town for the month-long vacation no one else in the USA gets. No one, except the W Administration, of all the administrations I've watched clearly the laziest by far; they were major ferragostans.

Ferragosto comes from Feriae Augusti, or Feast of Augustus, as a fertility season of revelry and rest. It later was christianized to the 15th of August, feast of the Assumption of Mary (Catholic) or Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox), a religious holiday celebrated in the Early Church.

This is not merely a Mediterranean custom any more. Germans, the French and the Brits slow down to a crawl and, if they can afford it, fly off to Mayorca and the Spanish Costa del Sol.

Americans always used to work year-round, especially in the cities. New York City not only never sleeps, it never used to stop even in the genteel days without air-conditioning in which John Cheever wrote about life in the city.

No longer. Those who are not busy making or consuming methamphetamine in the once-great breadbasket of the central states -- and there aren't too many left who aren't -- are lazing in the sun or the mountains or in Europe or even unscrewing fire hydrants in the inner city.

Decline, like death, doesn't come with trumpets and the clanging of cymbals but with sopor in summer.


Geneviève said...

Logically you should not get any comment, if everybody is on vacation...

"decline" and "death"? No, revival and resurrection. Ask Adam and Eve who have been condemned to "hard work" when they had to leave the Eden! (OK, work is a way to accomplish oneself, but vacation is another way!)

Joan said...

August here is when all the school-children and university/ college students are on vacation, so if any parents want a family holiday of any significant length, it is the obvious time to take leave (it also saves child-care expenses for parents of younger children. It means the local traffic is much lighter, but anywhere interesting is infested by foreign tourists and language school students! .

Crafty Green Poet said...

Edinburgh is just one long festival or three during August,

Anonymous said...

Interesting just this past week, I had a conversation with a fellow staff member, who asked given all the federal/state requirements and deadllines overseeing our welfare program, how does one(staff, not clients) take a vacation? We were discussing the month off that is traditionally taken in Europoe. How would this work for a government worker like me who is burried with proving that every hour a participant reports for their work participation is accurately verified. By the way here in Fort Collins, the kids return to school the week of August 17th.

Anne said...

I suppose, Anonymous, one just accepts that most people don't get the vacation time they want period.

I can't remember an August vacation at my old (traditional) place of employment...and I'm half way old! I would have liked one.

There are people, too, where there is flexibility that prefer to vacation at other times of year.