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Spring Bank Holiday

Spring Bank Holiday 2017 and 2018

Spring Bank Holiday is a “secular replacement” for the original late-May holiday known as Whit Monday.

Whit Monday was an off-day that came the day after Whit Sunday, which commemorated the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church on the Day of Pentecost.

YearDateDayHolidayCountries
201729 MayMonSpring Bank HolidayNational
201828 MayMonSpring Bank HolidayNational

In 1971, the Banking and Financial Dealings Act changed the date of the holiday to make it fall on the last Monday in May rather than on the day after Whit Sunday, which itself fell seven Sundays past Easter. Oddly, the 1971 statute does not give an official name to this holiday, but it is often called Spring or May Bank Holiday.

In 2002, the holiday was celebrated on June 4th to form a four-day weekend celebrating the Golden (50th) Jubilee of Elizabeth II’s reign. Again, in 2012, the same thing was done to celebrate her Diamond (60th) Jubilee. Such date moving, however, is relatively rare.

As “secular, nameless” holiday, Spring Bank Holiday is used by many as simply a time to relax with family and enjoy a big meal. A day off work or school creates a three-day weekend, which people sometimes use to take short trips or vacations. Many also take long walks through the spring countryside, stock up at garden centers, or do home improvement jobs.

Traditions

There are a few special traditions that occur at this time of year, however, including these two:

  • In the village of Brockworth, people assemble on Cooper’s Hill on Spring Bank Holiday to take part in a race in pursuit of large, round pieces of cheese as they roll down the steep hillside. Whoever finishes first in this “cheese race” wins an eight-pound wheel of Double Gloucester. Due to occasional injuries, some years, the event has been cancelled or the cheese-rolling has been done without anyone chasing.
  • In the village of Endon, the villagers celebrate by dressing up the local well, crowning a local maiden as the “Well-Dressing Queen,” and a “Tossing the Sheaf” contest is engaged in by the men. This means that straw bales are tossed into the air, and whoever can toss his bale highest wins.

Events

If in the United Kingdom during the Spring Bank Holiday, three events you may wish to attend, besides those listed above, are:

  • The Brighton Festival, which is held in late May and ends on May 24th. Located seaside to the English Channel, the event involves musical and theatrical performances, dances, a circus, art displays, films, storytelling sessions for children, and more.
  • The Hay Festival, which is the U.K.’s premier literary festival. This event runs until May 31st and is a celebration of the literary and performing arts. There are poetry recitations, famous authors and performers who give speeches, various workshops, and much more.
  • In Cornwall, the narrow peninsula at the west end of England, you can attend Helston Flora Day on May 8th. Again, there is cheese-chasing, a tradition that hails back to Roman days. There is also dancing under a maypole, “worm-charming,” and performance of a play involving St. George slaying a dragon.