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‘May 24th’ will be on May 24

  • Return to the original day: dancers perform during a Bermuda Day Parade (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Bermuda’s traditional May 24 holiday has been moved — to May 24.

John Rankin, the Governor, was asked by the Government to announce that the public holiday will not be on Friday, May 31 in 2019 but will instead be marked a week earlier.

It means the celebrations will take place on the traditional Bermuda Day date despite legislation introduced a year ago that suggested it would never fall on that date again.

A government spokeswoman said yesterday the change came after the Bermuda Tourism Authority had asked to align next year’s holiday with the United States Memorial Day weekend.

The Progressive Labour Party government tabled amendments to the Public Holidays Act 1947 in November 2017 that changed the fixed date of May 24 to the last Friday of the month.

Andrew Simons, then a One Bermuda Alliance senator, pointed out during a debate on the switch that when May 24 did land on a Friday, the final Friday of the month, and in turn the holiday, would be May 31.

Mr Simons suggested altering the wording from “last” to “fourth” Friday but the plea was ignored.

A list of public holidays on the Government’s website yesterday maintained that Bermuda Day, seen as the unofficial start to the summer, would be marked on May 31 in 2019.

However, a proclamation by Mr Rankin, published on the Official Gazette this week, stated: “I do hereby declare that Friday, the thirty-first day of May 2019 shall not be kept as the Bermuda Day public holiday and that Friday, the twenty-fourth day of May 2019 shall be kept as the Bermuda Day public holiday in lieu.”

Government House said yesterday: “The Governor was pleased to make this proclamation at the request of the Government given that in 2019, May 24 is in fact on a Friday.”

The Government spokeswoman said: “This alteration to the public holidays for the coming year has been made in consultation with the Bermuda Tourism Authority.”

She provided a comment from the BTA, which said: “Aligning the observance of Bermuda Day with the US Memorial Day weekend will make it easier for our visitors to join us out here and immerse themselves in this unique celebration of our cultures.”

The Bermuda Day holiday originated from a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday.

It was renamed Bermuda Day in 1979, based on recommendations by the Pitt Report into civil unrest in the 1970s, but the date of the holiday was unchanged.

Zane DeSilva, when he was minister of social development and sport, said last year the amendment meant the holiday would be celebrated over a long weekend rather than sometimes falling on a weekday.

He believed then it would allow for better planning and added: “There has always been a complaint that the absentee rate for schoolchildren and employees is higher when the holiday is celebrated during the week.

“We also feel that with this change there can be more planning with regard to the parade.”

The amendment took effect before this year’s Bermuda Day celebrations, which were held on May 25. Government was asked for comment yesterday but none was received by press time.