Posted by: Paraic | August 5, 2008

Bank (Public) Holidays

Just returned from a long weekend due to the ‘August Bank Holiday’.

Now, in the US, I always knew why I had a day off work.  We had as holidays New Year’s Day, Memorial Day (last Monday in May; remembering soldiers who’ve given their lives), Indepdence Day (July 4th; commemorating signing the Declaration of Independence), Labor Day (first Monday in September), Thanksgiving (last Thursday in November; probably my favorite US holiday) and Christmas.  There are other US Federal Holidays, but these are the main ones and the ones that were observed where I worked.

So I wondered where the ‘Bank Holiday’ originated, since it seemed to be a holiday for no particular reason and there seem to be a few of them sprinkled throughout the year (I guess I took them for granted growing up).  It turns out they can be traced back to the Bank Holidays Act of 1871.  Interesting to note the original motivation related to giving Bank employees the opportunity to participate in and attend cricket games!

There are now 9 public holidays in the Republic of Ireland according to the chart (10 in Northern Ireland) [although Good Friday is also a holiday in the Republic, just not counted under bank holidays since that tradition pre-dates the Bank Holidays Act].  All but three of these now are associated with some commemoration or observance, but the June Bank Holiday, Summer Bank Holiday (August), and October Bank Holiday remain just to give us a day off for no particular reason (other than to participate in Cricket).

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