The origins of the May bank holidays

03 May 2019 14:05

Morris dancing dates back to the 15th century

Morris dancing dates back to the 15th century

It's that amazing time of year again when every other weekend seems like a three-day holiday. But why does May have so many bank holidays? We take a quick look...

When are the bank holidays this May?

As ever, this summer will be welcomed in by not one, but two bank holiday weekends in May – at the start and end of the month. The May Day Bank Holiday falls on Monday 6th May this year, while 2019's Spring Bank Holiday takes place on Monday 27 May.

Why do we celebrate the May Day Bank Holiday?

Although traditionally associated with International Workers Day – also known as Labour Day – the May Day was only established as a public holiday in the UK in 1978. However, despite being a fairly recent addition to our calendars, May Day celebrations can trace their roots back to ancient times.

Spring festivals such as the pagan Beltane were popular ways of celebrating fertility and the end of the long winter, with villagers gathering for feasts and bonfires. Although these celebrations have largely died out, Beltane has experienced a resurgence in recent years thanks to Edinburgh's popular Beltane festival, which sees bonfires light up the city's Calton Hill.

Some ideas for celebrating the May Day Bank Holiday

Why not get your summer started with a bang by enjoying a last-minute trip to one of these excellent European destinations? Alternatively stay closer to home and check out your local May Day celebrations, which'll usually feature Morris dancing, a medieval folk-dance dating back to the 1400s.

Why do we celebrate the Spring Bank Holiday?

The second bank holiday in May started out as a holiday celebrating Whit Monday, the day after Pentecost, a moveable feast day in the Christian calendar falling seven weeks after Easter.

Although Pentecost is still celebrated across the UK, Whit Monday is no longer designated as a bank holiday. Instead, in 1971 it was formally replaced by the Spring Bank Holiday we have today, which is fixed on the last Monday in May. In 2011, parliament discussed moving the bank holiday to October, although this idea was rejected.

Need some Spring Bank Holiday activity ideas?

The Spring Bank Holiday usually coincides with half term, which means it's a popular time for families to jet off across Europe for a well-earned break, so why not consider one of these alternative European destinations for your next family getaway? If you do head away with the kids, check out our guide to traveling with the little ones and make your journey less stressful.

If you're going away, don't forget travel insurance

Whether you're booking a last-minute city break weekend or a week camping in the New Forest with your family, make sure you're covered for every eventuality. At World First, we offer a range of affordable travel insurance policies that'll give you peace of mind when heading away.