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Useful Notes / Bank Holidays

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Bank holidays are the colloquial name for British public holidays. The rough American equivalent is a "Federal holiday." There is no legal right to time off, but most workplaces shut for the day. Schools and some universities also close. Many shops are only open for restricted hours. They also feature in the Republic of Ireland. Scotland is slightly different (as usual). Apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day, bank holidays are not widely observed in Scotland. There is a parallel system of local holidays, with each town setting its own schedule. This system means that the entire population isn't on holiday at once, reducing traffic problems and the problem of everything being closed on your day off. Even banks use the local holidays, which means that in Scotland, a bank holiday is neither a public holiday or a day when banks are closed. No, really.


The various bank holidays:

  • 1 January: New Year's Day. Everyone's tired (and possibly hungover) from the previous night.
  • 2 January: Scotland only, because they needed an extra day to recover from the hangover.
  • 17 March: St Patrick's Day, but only in Ireland. The Irish and Stroke Country get a day off. Everybody else pretends to be Irish for the day and heads down the pub to get drunk, usually on Guinness, and wear those big fluffy hats shaped like a giant shamrock with pints of Guinness on top. Or just wear green. However, nobody goes quite as far as the Americans and dyes an entire river green. That would be crazy.
  • Good Friday: Religious holidaynote . Not in Ireland.
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  • Easter Monday: The first Bank Holiday Monday of the year. Not in Scotland.
  • First Monday in May: May Day Bank Holiday - there's usually some political protests on this day and sometimes riots by anti-capitalists.
  • Last Monday in May: Spring Bank Holiday - Not in Ireland.
  • First Monday in June: Ireland Only.
  • 12 July: Northern Ireland only. The anniversary of the amusingly named Battle of the Boyne, in which James II was defeated by William of Orange. The name is the only real amusement value in it. In Northern Ireland, it can cause major problems, since it's mostly celebrated by Protestants. The Orange Order does an annual march. There's a big problem - the traditional route now goes through Catholic areas, who aren't happy about it. There are a lot of arguments, the route is diverted, but some people try to go down the traditional route. It's a good year when this doesn't end up in violence breaking out.
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  • First Monday in August - Ireland and Scotland only.
  • Last Monday in August - England, Wales and Northern Ireland only.
  • Last Monday in October - Ireland only.
  • St Andrew's Day (30 November, or the next Monday if it's on a weekend) - Scotland only, for their patron saint.
  • Christmas Day - See A Very British Christmas. Some people still work on Christmas Day in Scotland, though this is uncommon.
  • Boxing Day - The same, just with more people working (largely retail, due to the start of the post-Christmas sales).

If any of the fixed bank holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the first working day afterwards is a day off.

There are attempts to increase the number of holidays or move some about. For the English, St George's Day (23 April) is the main one they're interested in.

In media, bank holidays are big events. A big new Monday drama will often be aired on a bank holiday, and the first two series of the new Doctor Who began on Easter Saturday. James Bond films are traditionally associated with these as well.

The other big day in the UK is Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night. Since Britain doesn't really have a national revolution (well it did, only to be undone it about 11 years later) or overthrow of oppressive colonisers to celebrate (and many cases actually been Britain itself), the main excuse to set off fireworks is the celebration of a failed terrorist attack. A common tradition is burning of "guys", traditionally effigies of Mr. Fawkes, but in Lewes, Sussex also of unpopular political figures.

  • This is celebrated in other parts of The Commonwealth too.
  • Somerset has the Somerset County Guy Fawkes Carnival Association to celebrate this, the largest of which is the Bridgwater Carnival on the Friday closest to the 5th November. It's the largest illuminated night carnival in the world and has a history of over 400 years.