Take the day off and celebrate Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday in May each year, this year falling on May 27. A public holiday in the U.K., this day is just a day off for the general population, and most businesses and educational institutions are closed. Even public transport systems run as per a holiday timetable.
History of Spring Bank Holiday
Around two centuries ago, about 30-odd religious festivals were recognized as official holidays by the Bank of England. This was changed to just five holidays — Christmas, All Saints Day, Good Friday, and May Day. Official bank holidays, as they are called, were introduced by one of the only initial pieces of legislation that dealt with bank holidays — the Bank Holidays Act. This was the precursor to another important banking legislation dealing with holidays — the Banking and Financial Dealings Act. Back then, bank holidays meant a day off for everyone except bank employees; they would use such holidays to work on the accounts and tidy up the bookkeeping.
Like most other festivals, the origins of Spring Bank Holiday are rooted in religious festivities. It started out as the Monday after Pentecost (a Christian festival) and was known as Whitsun or Whit Monday in the U.K. This day marked a Christian holiday that commemorated the descending of the Holy Ghost on Jesus Christ’s disciples and marking the end of the Easter season.
Initially, Whit Monday celebrations coincided with Easter and were celebrated around June but, since then, it moved to the end of May after a five-year trial period and was renamed to Spring Bank Holiday. A holiday to give people extra time to finish household chores after Pentecost, this holiday is now about celebrating with family and enjoying the fine spring weather.
Spring Bank Holiday timeline
Only a handful of religious festivals are now recognized as official bank holidays, from the initial 30+ festivals that were celebrated up to 1834.
Bank holidays are first introduced in this period by Sir John Lubbock, under the Bank Holidays Act of 1871.
Whit Monday gets a new name, Spring Bank Holiday, which is now celebrated at the end of May.
After a trial period of five years, the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 moves this holiday to the last Monday in May.
Spring Bank Holiday FAQs
What does Spring Bank Holiday celebrate?
Spring Bank Holiday gives everyone in the United Kingdom a day off work and school at the end of May.
Which countries celebrate Spring Bank Holiday?
While dates (and bank holidays, too) vary, countries in the United Kingdom — England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland — usually celebrate this holiday.
Why are they called bank holidays?
Bank holidays are actually national holidays, but they are called this because banks were closed for trading on these days.
How To Celebrate Spring Bank Holiday
Take the day off
For most people in countries where Spring Bank Holiday is an official holiday, this day represents a chance to relax and take a day off from work or school, and maybe take a mini-vacation. Go on a relaxing drive or a trip over this long weekend. Celebrate the way the good weather demands (and just the way you want to).
Go for a walk
Did you know May is also National Walking Month in the U.K.? This holiday is the best time to explore places around you. Use your free time to walk around your local park or garden, or even go on a short hike with your hiking buddies.
Take a leaf out of the traditions of old and catch up on pending tasks. Do some home maintenance and repairs. Catch up with family and friends, your neighbors, and everyone else in your life. Catch up with yourself too — simply pause and take an extra day to visit the spa, cozy up with a book, or take on any fun activity you like.
5 Fun Facts About Spring Bank Holiday
People in Brockworth, Gloucestershire race down Cooper's Hill after large round cheese but, due to injuries, only the cheese has been rolled down the hill in recent years.
It’s about dressing ‘well’
Villagers in Endon, Staffordshire, dress their well, and crown a girl as the Well Dressing Queen.
Ancient Pagan rituals are part of celebrations
These include rolling burning bundles of brushwood (to represent the onset of a new year) and scattering food like buns, biscuits, and sweets as a part of fertility rites.
A festival inside this holiday
The festival Bill Clinton once described as the “Woodstock of the mind,” the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts usually falls during this holiday from the end of May to the first week of June.
A long weekend times two
To give people a four-day long weekend, Spring Bank Holiday was moved to another date to follow another bank holiday, twice (in 2002 and 2012).
Why We Love Spring Bank Holiday
We get a day of rest
Two days never seem to be enough, do they? We love the thought of another little vacation day, especially when the weather is great. Spring Bank Holiday reminds us that rest is important, too, for our health, our relationships, and our pending chores.
We celebrate spring
What’s not to love about taking a day off in spring. We jump at this chance, and so should you because you might not get sunny weather again till next year.
We like learning something new
We don’t simply enjoy a day off. This day teaches us quite a lot about U.K. traditions and the ancient celebrations that accompanied this day. Any chance to expand our knowledge is very welcome, and we’re sure you would agree.
Spring Bank Holiday dates