May Day is officially know as the Early May Bank Holiday. It is held on the first Monday of May each year.
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*Please refer to this note for Scotland-specific information.
May Day has been an official public holiday all across the UK since 1978 when provisions were made for it in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act. Prior to that time, it was a holiday only in Scotland.
May Day has been marked and celebrated since ancient times and is a time of fun and festivities in many locations across the nation. These celebrations have obviously increased since the day became an official public holiday because more people can hold and be part of their community’s events.
Spring is well underway by the time May Day comes around, and in many ways the day is a celebration of the new life all around and the warm months to come. In the UK, as elsewhere in Europe and the Northern Hemisphere, the beginning of May is the traditional time to celebrate Spring. Parades in the UK vary from place to place but a few common sites and sounds include:
- Morris Dancers
- Maypole dancing
- Crowning of the Queen of May
- Dawn flower picking
- Picnics, pub events and more
At the same time, the UK is more unusual in that it does not have a formal Labour Day or May Day holiday to celebrate the rights of workers – as do so many other European countries and countries right around the world. Therefore it is often on May 1 or the public holiday itself that workers’ rights groups choose to march or protest to raise awareness of their grievances.