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Monday has a bad reputation.
The Bangles decried the day as “manic.” The Mamas and the Papas warned us not to “trust that day.” The Carpenters revealed that “rainy days and Mondays” always got them down. And, of course, the Boomtown Rats famously declared, “I don’t like Mondays.”
Garfield wasn’t a huge fan, either.
All in all, Monday is a pretty depressing day. It wasn’t always like that, though.
In fact, the day – originally named for the moon – was once so beloved in Britain and the US that it was called “Saint Monday.”
Why did Monday used to be so popular – and what happened to make it so melancholy today?
Here’s everything you need to know about the rise and fall of Saint Monday:
What is Saint Monday?
Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the six-day work week was standard in Britain and America. Workers only had Sundays off to observe the Sabbath, along with special holidays like Christmas and New Year that were scattered throughout the calendar
Still, Sunday’s status as the only official weekly day of rest didn’t stop workers from just declining to show up on Monday.
Many workers would stay home to recover from Sunday night benders or just relax and devote some time to leisure.
Thus, the phrase “keeping Saint Monday” was born, as the Atlantic reported.
The habit caught on. According to Witold Rybczynski of the Atlantic, it became official practice to take Monday off after a Friday or Saturday payday in industries like weaving and mining.
Still, the practice definitely didn’t impress employers. Benjamin Franklin even references the phrase in his autobiography, noting that he wracked up points with his employer by avoiding the weekly revelry: “My constant attendance (I never making a St. Monday) recommended me to the master.”
How did people spend Saint Monday?
Saint Mondays acquired a somewhat unsavory reputation for being all about boozing, boxing, and blood sports.
However, the day didn’t just involve nursing hangovers or drinking away wages. According to the Atlantic, people would use their day off to visit horse races, cricket matches, botanical gardens, museums, theater productions, dance halls, and social club meetings.
Saint Monday allowed the working class valuable leisure time. In his paper “The Lower Classes and Politics 1800-1850” Michael Richards argues that the tradition gave workers the opportunity to ” establish a degree of independence in relation to their employer.”
In his paper “The Decline of Saint Monday,” Douglas A. Reid references a 1851 London writer, who noted that the botanical gardens “were literally swarming with a well-dressed, happy and decorous body of the working classes. All appeared to be luxuriating in the glories of the objects present.”
So Saint Monday certainly wasn’t all about debauchery. That being said, if you were inclined to party especially hard, you might end up keeping it going up on a Saint Tuesday.
The fall of Saint Monday
Obviously, not everyone loved this custom. Business owners felt that the absenteeism hurt their productivity.
According to Reid’s research, one factory owner moved his chemical works from Birmingham to Scotland in 1766, partly due to the prevalence of Saint Monday.
As Rybczynski previously noted, in order to counter absenteeism, shops and factories starting closing earlier on Saturdays. Reid adds that measures like allowing free Saturday afternoons, along with legislation, chipped away at Saint Monday’s dominance over the years.
Why are Mondays terrible today?
Business Insider previously reported on how the 40-hour work week came into being. Our current two day weekend has its roots in the Industrial Revolution and the slow demise of Saint Monday.
In 1908, a New England cotton mill established a two-day weekend on Saturday and Sunday, to allow both Jewish and Christian workers to worship on their respective holy days. However, this model didn’t fully catch on until the Great Depression, as the Atlantic reported. This standard workweek is now widely accepted around the world.
And thus, as the first day of the standard work week, the once jovial Monday was left high and dry.