England and Wales Bank holidays 2015
The August summer bank holiday is traditionally a time for packing up and leaving your troubles behind in favour of a distant beach, a not-so-distant national park or a popular event such as the Notting Hill Carnival in London.
What Brits choose to do on their long weekends can, of course, be determined by the weather ‒ and August is as difficult a month as any to predict.
After a damp start, with parts of the country receiving half a month's worth of rain on one day alone, the barometer swung in the opposite direction and back towards sunshine.
But will this turn of events last until 27-29 August? The Met Office says it will be a "mixed bag", with rain coming in from the south-west on Saturday. The weather is set to turn brighter and clearer on Sunday and bank holiday Monday is expected to be the sunniest day of the three - although some isolated showers have also been forecast.
Here are the bank holidays you can look forward to over the next year:
Monday 29 August – summer bank holiday
This day off was first enshrined in the Bank Holidays Act 1871, when it fell at the beginning of August. It was moved to the last Monday in the month as part of the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which is why it can be something of a washout.
Europe's biggest street festival, the Notting Hill Carnival, takes place over the weekend, with floats, bands and two million people celebrating Caribbean culture and traditions.
Leeds and Reading festivals are also held on the last weekend of August and this year have Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foals and Biffy Clyro among the headline acts.
Scotland marks its summer bank holiday at the beginning of the month, but the Edinburgh Fringe Festival spans most of August, finishing on Monday 29, come rain or shine.
Monday 26 December – Boxing Day
Historically, UK employers also offered workers and servants gifts or cash on 26 December and gave them the day off. While the gifts may have dried up in many modern workplaces, the day remains a bank holiday.
Tuesday 27 December – Christmas Day (substitute)
The final bank holiday of 2016 will be a substitute for Christmas Day, which falls on a Sunday this year. The 25 December is celebrated in many different ways around the world: Finns share a festive sauna; families in India decorate a banana or mango tree, and in Japan, it has become customary to eat a festive feast of KFC. Here in the UK, families traditionally tuck into turkey and open presents from stockings and under the tree.
The sensible decision to introduce a day off following New Year's Eve first came about in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1974. Traditionally, the new year is welcomed in with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne at midnight and a resolution. This year, New Year's Eve falls on a Saturday night and New Year's Day is on a Sunday, so the bank holiday falls on Monday 2 January – with Scotland also getting the next day off.
Easter is always a highly anticipated event, combining as it does two bank holidays to give the majority of workers a four-day weekend. Traditionally, Good Friday is a sombre day, on which Christians mark Jesus's crucifixion with prayer and fasting.
Historically, the resurrection of Jesus was celebrated with egg-rolling and games, some of which, such as the Hallaton bottle-kicking contest, are still played today. Easter Monday is not an official break in Scotland but many local authorities treat it as a public holiday so businesses can synchronise their opening times with the rest of the UK.
This festival, which is associated with the coming of spring and new life after the gloom of winter, ties in with the traditional May Day and is still celebrated with maypoles, Morris dancing and village fairs in many parts of England. People flock to Glastonbury on 1 May to celebrate Beltane, the Gaelic name for May Day, with processions of dancers and drummers, as well as a ceremony and large fire. The government in 2011 was reported to be considering a proposal to move this bank holiday to October, but no changes have been announced so far.
The spring bank holiday used to be held on the Monday after Pentecost – a day of religious significance to both Jews and Christians. However, it was moved to the last Monday in May in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971. Traditions include the annual race at Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, where people run down a steep hill following a large round cheese with the winner awarded a 7.7lbs Double Gloucester. In Endon, Staffordshire, meanwhile, locals dress their well, hold a fayre and crown the "Well Dressing Queen". Whit Monday, the day after Pentecost, is still a religious celebration in the UK and next year falls on 5 June. However, it is no longer marked with a day off.
Scotland has a slightly different bank holiday schedule to England and Wales. Here are the next days off north of the border:
- Monday 30 May – spring bank holiday
- Monday 1 August – summer bank holiday
- Wednesday 30 November – St Andrew's Day
- Monday 26 December - Boxing Day
- Tuesday 27 December - Christmas Day (substitute)
- Monday 2 January
- Tuesday 3 January - New Year's Day (substitute)