The spring bank holiday, also known as the late May bank holiday, is a time for people in the United Kingdom to have a day off work or school. It falls on the last Monday of May but it used to be on the Monday after Pentecost.
What Do People Do?
For many people the spring bank holiday is a pleasant day off work or school. Some people choose to take a short trip or vacation. Others use the time to walk in the country, catch up with family and friends, visit garden centers or do home maintenance. However, in some parts of the United Kingdom, there are some customs associated with this day.
On Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, people race down a steep hill following a large round cheese. The hill is concave and has an incline of 1:1 in some places. The first person to cross the finishing line wins a Double Gloucester cheese weighing about 8lbs (around 3.5kg). The custom may have been started by the Romans or ancient Britons and be an ancient fertility rite or a way of guaranteeing the rights of the villagers to graze their livestock on the surrounding land. In some years, there have been a lot of injuries, causing the event to be cancelled a couple of times in recent years. In these years, the cheese was rolled down the hill, but nobody was allowed to chase it.
In Endon in Staffordshire, the villagers dress their well, hold a fayre (village celebration) and crown a girl as the Well Dressing Queen. Local men hold a competition, known as ‘Tossing the Sheaf’, in which they compete to see who can toss a bale of straw the highest. In other places, boats are blessed, Morris dancers put on displays and local festivals are held.
The last Monday in May is a bank holiday. Many organizations, businesses and schools are closed. Stores may be open or closed, according to local custom. Public transport systems often run to a holiday timetable.
The spring bank holiday started as the Monday after Pentecost. This is known as Whitsun or Whit Monday in the United Kingdom. The Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, moved this bank holiday to the last Monday in May, following a trial period of this arrangement from 1965 to 1970.
In 2002 this bank holiday was moved to June 4 to follow an extra bank holiday on June 3. This gave people a four-day weekend to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. This marked the 50th year of her accession to the throne of the United Kingdom. The spring bank holiday will also be moved to June 4 in 2012 to form a long weekend together with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bank holiday.