Category Archives: British Bank Holidays

The First of May – and/or – its traditions

Here is my first ‘snippet’ posted on both of my blogs today 1st May 2017:

The day today – and every year – people all over the world will be celebrating May Day.
For some it is, and always has been, a festival to mark the arrival of spring.
In Pre-Christian times it was the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers.
In many Catholic cultures, May Day is associated with the Virgin Mary. Statues of her were – and are – decorated with wreaths of flowers.

In the late 1800s, May Day was chosen by Socialists and Communists to be celebrated as International Workers’ Day.

The traditional English May Day Rites and Celebrations includes crowning a May Queen and celebrations involving dancing round the maypole.  Morris dancing was also often linked to the May Day celebrations of springtime fertility of the soil and livestock together with revelry with village fetes and community gatherings.

In Britain the Spring Bank Holiday is on the first Monday – NOT always the first day – in May.  It was created in 1978 and effectively changed British history as regards May Day itself.  May 1st in England is not a public holiday unless it falls on a Monday but – as in many ways – the British adjust and have the celebrations on May 1st whatever the day and then have a day off [well many do] on the first Monday in May!

I’ve looked to see what the rest of the world does on this day – and found that across the world it is still a special day – but they call it Labour Day!

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A Very British New Year is with us

Well – it’s Tuesday 3rd January 2017 here in Great Britain and England & Wales are back at work after the joys of the traditional New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations and the additional Bank Holiday/Day off yesterday, Monday.  Our Scottish counterparts also have today off!

So, what is a British Bank Holiday?

It is a public holiday format that has been recognised as such in their present form since the ‘Bank Holiday Act’ of 1871. The ‘Bank Holiday’ term comes from times past when banks were shut on certain days and no trading could take place.  Although the Banks closed, based on the 1871 Act, there was, in fact, no automatic right to take time off on those days.  However, the majority of the British working population was – and still is granted – time off work or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their individual contracts.

So, how has this all come into place one might ask?   Following their foundations began in 1694 Britain’s Banks had been privately owned by stockholders and, in each year, would observe over 30 ‘Saints’ Days and religious festivals as holidays.
In 1834 that number was reduced to four: – 1st May [May Day]; 1st November [All Saints’ Day]; Good Friday and Christmas Day.
It was in 1871 that the first legislation relating to these ‘Bank’ holidays was passed when the Liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holiday Act.
That specified that under the Act ‘no person was compelled to make any payment or to do any act upon a bank holiday which he would not be compelled to do or make on Christmas Day or Good Friday, and the making of a payment or the doing of an act on the following day was equivalent to doing it on the holiday’.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland these days were Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the First Monday in August and St. Stephen’s Day {Boxing Day}.  The 1871 Act listed just these four specific days and did not include Good Friday and Christmas Day as bank holidays in England, Wales, or Ireland because they were already recognised as common law holidays: they had been customary holidays since before records began.

The English, Welsh and Northern Ireland people were so thankful that some called the first Bank Holidays St Lubbock’s Days for a while.

Scotland was treated differently because of its separate traditions – the recent New Year’s Day celebrations are the perfect example. The other ‘special’ Scottish days are Good Friday, the first Monday in May, the first Monday in August and Christmas Day.

By the time you read this most of you will be back at work – but don’t fret.
Good Friday/Easter Monday is 14th/17th April; the Spring holidays are 1st and 29th May;
the Summer Sunday ‘day off’ is on 28th August with
Christmas and Boxing/St Stephen’s Day on 25th /26th December.

In the meantime – have a great year