What is a Bank Holiday and why do we have them?
In the UK every year there are 8 set days which are known as ‘bank holidays’ or sometimes called ‘public holidays’. They were originally introduced in 1871 so that banks and bank workers could have days off to rest and relax. Originally, it was only banks and other financial services that would close, hence the name ‘bank holiday’. Gradually over time the government, schools and some shops and businesses also decided to close on bank holidays. Some bank holidays take place on religious days, such as Christmas Day, or on the day of a significant royal event. A great example is this in 2022 is that the UK will receive an extra bank holiday day to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee. The other days were chosen as good points in the year for banks to close and financial services to stop.
Spring Bank Holiday
The next bank holiday in the UK is on 31st May – it is known as spring bank holiday, named after the season it takes place in and is always on the last Monday of the month. Traditionally, for Christians, the day is known as ‘Whit Monday’ or ‘Pentecost Monday’ and used to be the day after the Pentecost which commemorates the Holy Ghost descending on the disciples of Jesus Christ. The day is observed by many Christians around the world and many European countries have a bank holiday so that people can reflect and celebrate the Pentecost.
What do people do on a Bank Holiday?
Many people in the UK have different traditions for bank holidays, some will see it as an opportunity to socialise with family and friends, those who are religious may take the day to visit church or celebrate a religious event, others will use the day to rest before returning to their busy work life.
Some places in the UK have outlandish traditions, for example, in Gloucestershire every year on spring bank holiday they hold an annual ‘cheese rolling’ event where people chase large rounds of cheese down a hill and the first to cross the finish line wins 3.5kg of cheese (of course)! This tradition is thought to have started with the Romans and was to do with who owned the right to land. Not surprisingly, there have a number of cheese related injuries over the years.
Other places in the UK, normally in small villages, will hold a fayre (a celebration) with lots of games and traditional English Morris dancing. If the bank holiday is for a royal event, many people throughout the UK will have street parties or gatherings to celebrate.
Although banks, the government and education close on a bank holiday many shops and hospitality will stay open so there is plenty to do so you can make the most of the extra day off. The main thing British people want on a bank holiday is no rain!