Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The notion of a weekly rest is ancient; Judeo-Christian religions celebrate a day of rest known as the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath is known as Shabbat, and is from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday; the Christian Sabbath is known as the Lord's Day, and is on Sunday; the Muslim Sabbath is on Friday.
The weekend as a day of leisure is a rather modern invention. Before the industrial revolution the wage labour force was a minuscule fraction of the population. The day of the Sabbath was viewed as one dedicated to God, not one of relaxation, and strict prohibitions on permissible activities were enacted.
The French Revolutionary Calendar allowed decadi, one out of ten days, as a leisure day.
The early industrial period in Europe saw a six-day work week with only Sunday off, but some workers had no days off at all. Only the labour and workers rights movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a five day work week introduced as Saturday became a day of rest and relaxation. This movement began in England. In several languages, the word for weekend is an adaptation of weekend or the term "English week " is used for the five-days work week.
In many ways this has been a great boon to the economy as it lead to a great increase in consumer spending on Saturdays as a restaurant visit, motorcar journeys, or a trip to the movies became standard Saturday fare. Many jurisdictions continued to enforce strict Lord's Day laws on Sunday which meant that most recreations, such as stores and theaters, were forced to close on the Sabbath. These regulations began to weaken in the years after the Second World War and Sunday also became a day of recreation for many.
In recent years the weekend has begun to fade in importance. While most people work a five day work week, when the hardware costs outweigh human costs, the competitiveness of the modern economy means that leaving a factory idle for two days or an office unmanned is of too great expense. Thus many workers regularly work on weekends. Since this is seen as a greater burden most employers pay extra for weekend work, either by agreement or by legislation.
The rapid increase in the number of two-income households has also changed the character of the weekend. Previously the stay at home spouse would do the shopping during the week; with both working most of the shopping must be done on weekends, leaving less time for recreation. To serve these new shoppers it is also necessary for more stores to remain open and thus more people to work on weekends.
One area that the weekend has remained unimpinged is in education where schools through the west still shut on Saturdays and Sundays.
There is still great variability in many areas between the workweek and weekend. Stores that are reliant on office workers will see far less business on a weekend, while those in the suburbs or in residential areas will see far more. Since weekends are days where people can safely sleep in and also not have to worry as much about the ill effects of a hangover, Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest for bars, restaurants, clubs, and movies theaters. There is substantially less activity on many websites on weekends.
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