What is a Bank Holiday, and Why does the UK even have them?

Bank holiday graphic

Eight times a year, the people of England and Wales have a long weekend! This is because, on these eight special weeks out of the year, we don’t have to work on Monday! We can put our feet up in front of the TV on Sunday night, knowing that we don’t have to make the journey into work tomorrow.

Why not? Because these eight days out of the week are bank holidays : but if you’re lucky enough to live in Scotland, you will have nine bank holidays, or Northern Ireland, where they have ten!

Ingla Enrichment Snooker Club 3

Where did bank holidays come from?

Believe it or not, there actually used to be even more public holidays per year! The Bank of England, the UK’s national bank, actually used to have over forty of them – these were for royal events, and the holy days of various saints! This was reduced to 18 in 1830, and finally to only four in 1834!

Don’t worry though – we wouldn’t have so few holidays for long!

The Bank Holidays Bill, 1871

This law was written by John Lubbock, an English banker and politician. It made the bank holidays (in England, Wales and Ireland at least) official, and gave them this name. The first of these were Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August, and Boxing Day – this is the day after Christmas.Lubbock was also a scientist, and tried to teach his pet dog to read! Weird!

Why are they called bank holidays?

As you can probably guess, these are called bank holidays because the banks are closed on these days, with no financial business allowed until the next day!

But, because of Lubbock’s bank holidays bill, the banks don’t lose anything from closing. So don’t worry – your savings are safe!

money scale

So, which days are bank holidays, and where?

  • Christmas Day, (December 25th) New Year’s Day (January 1st ) Boxing Day, (December 26th) and Good Friday 

These all became bank holidays in Scotland in 1871, but were only made bank holidays in the rest of the UK 100 years later!

  • The 2nd of January

The second day of the new year is also a bank holiday, but only in Scotland. Lucky Scots!

  • Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17th)

This special day for the Irish, named for their patron saint, became a Bank Holiday in Northern Ireland in 1903.

  • Easter Monday

This became a bank holiday in England, Scotland and Wales in 1871 (it still isn’t in Scotland – you can’t have everything!)

  • May Bank Holiday

The first Monday in May is also a bank holiday, since 1871 in Scotland, and 1978 in 

England, Wales and Northern Ireland!

  • Spring Bank Holiday

The LAST Monday in May is also a bank holiday – it’s a good month to take time off!

  • The Battle of the Boyne (July 12th)

The anniversary of this famous battle, fought in 1690, is also a bank holiday  in       Northern Ireland only!

  • August Bank Holiday

Finally, this bank holiday (which of course we just had!) used to actually be on the FIRST Monday of August – but it was moved to the last Monday in 1971.

Comprehension Questions

Answer True or False based on the information in the article

  1. Scotland has more bank holidays than England.
  2. Scotland has the most bank holidays in the UK.
  3. The UK only had four bank holidays in 1834.
  4. John Lubbock tried to teach his pet dog to dance.
  5. The 2nd of January is a bank holiday in England.
  6. St. Patrick’s Day became a bank holiday in 1903.
  7. Easter Monday is a bank holiday in Scotland.
  8. There are two bank holidays in May.
  9. The Battle of the Boyne was fought in 1690.
  10. The anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne is a bank holiday in England.
  1. True
  2. False (it’s Northern Ireland)
  3. True
  4. False (he tried to teach it to read)
  5. False (it’s in Scotland only)
  6. True
  7. False (everywhere EXCEPT Scotland)
  8. True
  9. True
  10. False (only in Northern Ireland)


Match the bold words in the article to the definitions below

  1. Someone important to a country (adjective and noun)
  2. The day in the year when something happened in the past (noun)
  3. To relax (verb phrase)
  4. Money you keep to help later! (noun)
  5. Related to money (adjective)
  6. To make something fewer in number (verb)
  7. Strange (adjective)
  8. True by law (adjective)
  1. Patron
  2. Anniversary
  3. Put your feet up
  4. Savings
  5. Financial
  6. Reduce
  7. Weird
  8. Official