May Day – Why do we have a bank holiday at the beginning of May?
23rd April 2018
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Many of us associate the first Monday of May with a day off work and the chance for an extra lay in. However, do you ever wonder why this bank holiday first came about?


  • The first May Day celebrations date back to our Anglo- Saxon roots. They originate from the pagan celebration of the Festival of Flora (a Roman Goddess) and the Gaelic festival of Beltane which celebrates the beginning of summer.

  • Due to these pagan and Gaelic links, there have been many attempts throughout the years to ban May Day celebrations as they were seen as ‘unchristian’. On 30th Jan 1649 the British Puritan Government succeeded in banning May Day however it was reinstated again by Charles II in 1660.


  • Although it has now been moved to the first Monday of May, May Day was traditionally celebrated on 1st May every year.

  • Communities and villages would have large gatherings and fetes (some still do) involving Maypole dancing and the crowning of a May Queen. Dancing around the May Pole is to say farewell to winter and welcome springtime fertility. The May Queen is often a girl dressed in white with a crown made of flowers to represent the Roman Goddess, Flora. Morris dancers also often appear at May Day celebrations.

  • Another, less well-known tradition, was for girls to go out and wash their faces in the early morning dew on 1st May. This was supposed to make them beautiful in the coming year!

International Workers Day

  • In the late 19th Century, 1st May was chosen to be ‘International Workers Day’ by a national organization made up of socialist and communist political parties. On this day they called for the start of protests for the legal establishment of the 8-hour working day.

  • Also known as ‘Labour Day’ it has since become a celebration of labourers and the working classes with protests and demonstration’s continuing to take place, mainly in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Doncaster. Fortunately, in recent years, these have become more peaceful marches and gatherings.

Despite its long history, May Day wasn’t established as a bank holiday in the UK until 1978, when it was decided that it would be marked on the first Monday in May rather than May 1st. In 2011 it was almost scrapped by Parliament to be replaced by a ‘United Kingdom’ day in October. However, these plans were aborted and so for many of us, we still have a nice long weekend coming up!

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Haulaway Skips is a family run waste management company. We provide many services including skip, grab and tipper hire as well as recycled aggregates and topsoil. We recycle over 90% of all waste received...

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