Bank Holidays in May

May is unique in having two Bank Holiday Mondays, for many people it offers the prospect of two long weekends which may translate into a holiday away. However, with current restrictions, these may not be able to offer quite so much freedom to go away. The Early May Bank Holiday returns to its traditional place, the first Sunday in May. If you remember it moved to a Friday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. I am not sure quite what its origin is, it could be a celebration of the beginning of summer and would then have a connection with Maypoles and Morris Dancers. Or it could be related to Labour Day celebrations which celebrate the achievements of workers and the establishment of workers’ rights. It seems a good connection to give workers a day off. I was surprised to learn that Bank Holidays were introduced to allow Banks to close on public holidays, they had been forced to stay open to allow payment to continue even on public holidays. They came into being in 1871 but only offered four bank holidays, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, First Monday in August and Boxing Day. I was also surprised to learn that there were thirty-three public holidays for saint’s day and religious festivals. It was considered excessive and was reduced to just four in 1834. Again surprisingly, we have the second-fewest public holidays in the world, only Mexico has fewer!

The second Bank Holiday originates from Whit Monday, ie the Monday after Whit Sunday or Pentecost. Pentecost is a moveable date linked to fifty days after Easter. This year it would May 23rd giving the Bank Holiday on Monday 24thMay. However, the connection with Whitsun was cut in 1971 and the bank holiday is now the last Monday in May. So, the bank holiday is actually on 31st May. It is much easier to have the last Monday in May than work out when fifty days have passed after Easter. However, sometimes that which is easy is not always good for us. The Pandemic has reminded us that what was comfortable and easy was not always good for us. It has become very easy to be selfish and forget about our neighbour. We have been reminded of how important it is to be a good neighbour. We are reminded of the importance of community and pulling together in adversity. I would want to add that our relationship with God is important for both our wellbeing and our awareness of the needs of those around us. We may have fractured or forgotten some of our connections. Easter and Pentecost promise that they can be restored and renewed. 

Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) [email protected]