A total of four and a half days of my classes are cancelled at my institution between Maundy Thursday and May 10 (aka Sports Day*) and three more days (that I don’t have classes on) get the chop as well. That’s seven and a half free days in less than a month.
The main reason is that once Polish people have a holiday they are very loath to let it go. One of the holidays is May 1, which has communist connotations and therefore isn’t “celebrated” in any meaningful way by…. anyone. Then there is May 3, Constitution Day in honor of a forward looking (but ultimately doomed) constituion. That constitution was important in Polish history and so of course the communists stripped it of its holiday status in 1951. Turning it into a holiday again in 1990 was part of sticking it to the (now out of power) communists and was all in all a good idea, but there’s just one problem… people don’t celebrate it either (besides not going into work).
The rational thing to do would be to turn May 1 into a normal working day and then transfer the holiday to May 3 and create some traditions that would make it a festive occasion. But they don’t do things that way in Poland and May 2 turns into a weird quasi holiday so now there’s this giant black hole in the schedule around the beginning of May every year. It’s absolutely at its worst when the two holidays fall on Tuesday and Thursday which turns into a week long desert.
Sometimes I can use the holidays to travel but that’s not happening this year (went around Easter instead) so it’s stay home and plan lectures.
And like all free days it’s accompanied by a frenzy at supermarkets as most people rush to buy eight months worth of food to tide them over for the two holidays (trauma related to shopping that was born in the communist period has mostly been worked out…. but traces remain and that’s one of them). The shopping trauma is probably why periodic attempts to make stores close on Sunday are doomed to failure.
*A floating institutional holiday somewhere in May, where I am its always on a Wednesday