“What is a ‘weekend’?”

My son said yesterday evening that he’d thought it was Monday all day. I told him to wait a bit, and it would be. But as it’s a federal holiday, in fact this week ‘Monday’ will not really be happening until Tuesday. 

So many things we take for granted, we forget they are not, in fact, absolute and immutable. The week, for instance. Seven day chunks define our sense of a full course of days before the pattern of work and relaxation repeats. In current times, in Western society, it begins and ends each cycle with a day understood to be set aside for spiritual observance, usually Saturday or Sunday. 

The ancient  Etruscans and Romans lived and worked with eight day weeks. The Egyptians defined the repeating pattern of work and life in ten day weeks. That had a brief resurgance in Revolutionary France as they attempted to detach life from the religiously defined calender, but it wasn’t a success. 

I’m not suggesting that our cultural habit of generations be changed, just that it’s interesting to think about it, to imagine if we lived weeks that were not seven days. For one thing, we’d have to come up with names for the additional days. Any suggestions…?

Or what if we shortened the repeating pattern to five or six days? Which names would we drop? Or would we find all new names, just to redefine the week, to escape the traditions we are so used to?

Downton Abbey – “What Is A Weekend?” – YouTube

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