Christmas lights on Regent Street, London, 1969 - wikimedia
In 1871, the Bank Holidays Act became law. For the first time, bank holidays were established in the United Kingdom.
In fact, different bank holidays were established in the different countries that make up our archipelago. England, Wales and Ireland got four holidays: Easter Monday; Whit Monday; First Monday in August; Boxing Day in England and Wales and St Stephen's Day in Ireland (which are the same thing). Scotland, in recognition of its different culture, history and faith tradition, got five: New Year's Day; Good Friday; First Monday in May; First Monday in August; Christmas Day.
In 1903, a special Act of Parliament made St Patrick's Day a public holiday in Northern Ireland, and 23 years later, the Governor of the province decided to do the same the Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
Today, England and Wales have eight bank holidays. Northern Ireland has ten. In Scotland, it's more complex still. Public holidays are set by local authorities, and the list (and how observed they are in practice) varies hugely, Each day off comes with its own sometimes fascinating history which offers a window into the different histories and cultural traditions found across the country.
If you live in Inverness, you get winter holidays on the first Mondays of February and March. On the first Monday in November, in honour of an ancient pre-Christian ritual, there's a day off for Samhain. There is also a “Fair Holiday” in many places across the country, though no one can agree on which day.
If you are in Elgin, it's the last Monday of June. In Falkirk and Inverness, they choose the first Monday in July, whilst in Aberdeen, it's the second. In Arbroath, Fife, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, and South Lanarkshire (except Lanark) it's the third Monday, and in the Scottish borders, it's the fourth Friday of the month. Dundee stump for the last Monday of the month, and Paisley alone stretch it into the first Monday in August. In Edinburgh, there is also a theoretical Fair Holiday, but it falls on a Saturday so no one notices.
Depending on where you are, you might also find a Victoria Day, a Lanimer Day, Linlithgow Marches, Braw Lads Gathering, an Autumn holiday, or, in Falkirk, Perth and Stirling, the anniversary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. And, perhaps most famously, Scots have traditionally not just had the first of January off, but also the second.
Globally, of course, the geography of statutory leave is an interesting one. But that's for another day. Because here's the point: OurKingdom is on holiday. If you are too, we hope that you are having a lovely time. In fact, if you're not, we hope you're still having a lovely time. And if that time will be enhanced by the reading of some of the highlights of OurKingdom's year, then here are our editors' picks for 2013:
Robin McAlpine: what’s really happening at Grangemouth and what it tells us
Glenda Jackson: Thatcher, a woman? not on my terms
Olly Huitson: Thatcher - black gold or red bricks
Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi: The lone parent trap: Single parents struggle to survive in Austerity Britain.
Joe Guinan: Privatisation: a very British disease
Dick Pountain: the battle countries and companies
Clare Sambrook: G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted
Nicola Cutcher and Lucy Reynolds: the NHS as we know is needs a prayer
Caroline Molloy: Peterborough Hospital, the NHS and Britain's privatisation racket
Get our weekly email