When I lived in Rome last year I remember what a strange feeling it was to see restaurants and shops with signs on their doors reading: “Closed for ferragosto, reopening August 30.” Every year on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, Italy celebrates its “ferragosto” (August holiday). For roughly the next two weeks, Italy slows down as Italians take time for vacation before the academic year and high tourist season begin.
I remember thinking this would never happen in the U.S., but wishing it would.
Then Covid hit and the U.S. shut down for weeks consecutively. Based on my experience of the first week or two of lockdown, it got me thinking that maybe a week to ten days every year where the U.S. ‘shuts down’ would be a very good thing. I say this because apart from the economic stress and uncertainty of the lockdowns, the people I spoke with during the first two weeks of them almost unanimously said it was nice to have life slow down for a change and that they were enjoying spending time with family.
That’s why I think the second week of August every year should be a week in which the American people slow down and work little, taking time to be with family and to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Businesses and organizations would voluntarily shut down from Monday to Sunday, giving people 7 days of vacation. Of course certain services (with reduced hours) would remain open regardless — hospitals, pharmacies, grocers — but 75% of the country would be closed for business, similar to what happened at the beginning of the pandemic.
A quick note about concerns that such a shutdown would have negative effects similar to the Covid shutdowns. The Covid shutdowns were psychologically and economically destructive because they stretched on for multiple weeks and covered the economy in uncertainty. However, if a shutdown is predictable and defined in duration (1 week would seem like nothing compared to the 4–8 week Covid shutdowns), the effects on the economy would be negligible, as businesses and investors could factor such a break into their forecasts and decisions, similar to what happens on President’s Day or MLK Day when the stock markets close.
Americans notoriously take too little vacation time, choosing instead to prioritize commercial concerns. The calculus with a week-long shutdown is not about the foregone money, but rather, the good it would do us to have a week every year when the pace of life eases, when vacation and family come before business and work, and we when we enjoy the essential things of life.