I love my bank holiday weekends and with another looming, I have been wondering how I can make the very most of it. I am hoping for some good weather and a general good time as many do but many people don’t know where bank holidays originate.
In 1871, the day in which banks were open and closed was a general mess across the UK. This meant that cheques were often delayed and bills were not processed in due time. Sir John Lubbock had enough of this madness and so introduced an Act of Parliament to get some standardization for these days.
The Act selected four days in the year in the UK. At first, these were Easter Monday, Whit Monday, 1st Monday of August and the 26th of December. Five days were opted for in Scotland.
Now, these days were not intended to be national holidays. But when the members of Parliament were discussing the Act, one of their major concerns was whether other organisations plus the public should use these days as holidays also. The Bank Holiday Act was so popular that there was mention that the August Bank Holiday should be renamed to St Lubbock’s day and some people did, in fact, call it that.
The holidays did at one point get a bad reputation for themselves as they became associated with the working class people drinking too much. This was especially true for the August Bank Holiday.
Even though the Bank Holidays were created by Victorians, they are rooted much further back than the holidays themselves. They come from some days which already existed as a celebration. For example, mid-august was traditionally a time for seaside holidays even in the days before the railway. May Day comes from pre-christian days where it was a tradition related to fertility and spring.
The holidays are appointed every year by Royal Proclamation. Actually, a Bank Holiday can be created in an emergency. For example, if the government wishes to cease currency dealings or for other special occasions such as the Queen’s Jubilee.
The Act was repealed in 1971 and changed to the Banking and Financial Dealings Act. This is still in place right now. So the UK bank holidays are pretty much the same as they were over 100 years ago but now obviously we don’t venture to the UK seaside as much.