There are 8 Bank Holidays throughout the year in the UK, and two occur during the month of May. The first of these is on May Day (1st of May), on which International Workers' day is celebrated. In the UK there are protest marches and rallies happening in big cities.
The second bank holiday falls at the end of May after Whitsun during the Christian festival of Pentecost. On Whit Sunday, Christians celebrate the descension of the Holy Spirit on Jesus' disciples. in the past, because so much of the country would be in church on Sunday and Monday at this time, the public was given a bank holiday. The Whitsun Bank Holiday is also known as the Spring Bank holiday.
Bank holidays are different from public holidays like Christmas Day or Good Friday when all schools and most businesses are closed. New Bank Holidays are created for special occasions: the most recent was for the coronation of King Charles III.
On May Day, (and also during Whitsun and Christmas) in some villages and towns, you might see people performing a traditional folkdance called Morris Dancing. It is thought by some that the name Morris is derived from the Moors of North Africa. The dancers face each other in lines, wearing bright costumes and bells on their legs. They may carry handkerchiefs that they wave around or sticks that they bang together as they dance. The dancers are usually accompanied by traditional instruments such as the accordion, fiddle and drum.
A Bank Holiday always falls on a Monday. People often use this extra day to take a short trip to another location, to visit family, or even to go abroad. During the spring and summer, you'll see lots of people having picnics in parks or drinking outside pubs on a Monday afternoon. Music festivals like Creamfields and Cross the Tracks take place on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend so that revellers have the Monday to recover though there are often quite a few hangovers on the Tuesday too! Although banks, schools and some businesses are closed for Bank Holidays, many tourist attractions are open. It’s a good time to do some sightseeing but expect queues!
Bank Holiday fun facts
They were introduced for banks by politician and banker Sir John Lubbock in 1871
They used to be nicknamed St Lubbock's Days. Sir John Lubbock was never made a saint, but the days were given this name in his honour for a while.
We don't get many! The UK has 8 bank holidays through the year. The only country with less is Mexico, with 7. The country with the most bank holidays is India, with a whopping 21!
We used to have loads! Until 1834, there were 33 bank holidays in the UK. This was because saint's days and religious holidays were included. Unfortunately, in 1834 this was reduced to a miserly 4.