Spring Bank Holiday was at first known as Whit Monday or Whitsun – the Monday after Pentecost. It officially became a holiday under a new name and was moved to the last Monday of May in 1971. An interesting fact is that the holiday was never given an official name, so it can also be known as Late May Bank Holiday.
Just as in the case of other bank holidays in the United Kingdom, on the last Monday of May most businesses, schools and organisations are closed. Most people have a day off. Because Monday is then treated as an additional day of the weekend, many Britons decide to go for a short trip or vacation. The weather is often good at the end of May, so parks are often full of picnic parties, and a lot of people have a barbeque in their garden.
There are also some special traditions and customs related to Spring Bank Holiday. For example, in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, an unusual race takes place. It is known as Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake. The participants race down Cooper’s Hill aiming to catch a 7-9 pounds round of Double Gloucester cheese. The winner receives the prize in the form of... cheese. The tradition is older than the Spring Bank Holiday itself – it was observed each Whit Monday since at least 19th century. Although there were some serious injuries during many editions of the event, it became so popular, that contestants come from all over the world to take part in it.
Another interesting tradition can be observed in Endon, Staffordshire. It is known as Well Dressing or Endon May Queen celebration. The villagers dress their well, but also crown one of the girls as the Well Dressing Queen. Local men, however, take part in a competition that shows who can toss a bale of straw the highest.
Did you know?
There were two years in the history of observing Spring Bank Holiday, when the date of the observance was moved from the last Monday of May to June 4. The first time was in 2002, when Queen Elisabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee – the 50th year of her accession to the throne of the United Kingdom. Ten years later, in 2012, British people were also given a four-day weekend because of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bank holiday.
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