Today is the May Day Bank Holiday here in the UK, so I thought I would look at the history of why we have these public holidays.
I was sure that the commonly held belief of why ‘bank holidays’ are so called was incorrect, and it appears that Wikipedians confirm this assumption: “Bank holidays are often assumed to be so called because they are days upon which banks are shut, but this is not in fact the case”. However, I found the reason behind bank holiday legislation fascinating and very… British:
In 1871, the first legislation relating to bank holidays was passed when Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holidays Act 1871 […]. Sir John was an enthusiastic supporter of cricket and was firmly of the belief that bank employees should have the opportunity to participate in and attend matches when they were scheduled. Included in the dates of bank holidays are therefore dates when cricket games were traditionally played between the villages in the region where Sir John was raised. The English people were so thankful that they called the first Bank Holidays ‘St. Lubbock’s Days’.