Bank Holidays: pointless tradition or a great excuse for a day out?

It’s the Bank Holiday today and personally I was hoping the thunderstorms that have bothered me for the last week will be replaced by glorious sunshine. Who doesn’t love a BBQ on a Bank Holiday Monday? And I’m quite sure that’s what beer gardens were invented for… Though when the headlines from the last few days have been warning of torrential downpours in the UK I can’t see myself enjoying a burger in the sun this afternoon.

But where did Bank Holidays start? Personally I don’t see why banks should get a day off, they get weekends like the rest of us and I’m sure the one in my village closes it’s doors as soon as it sees me coming.

It was all down to an MP called Sir John Lubbock back in the 1870s who introduced the Bank Holidays Act as well as the concept of paid holidays. It was such a popular idea originally that some even wanted August bank holiday to be named “St Lubbock’s Day”. Originally most businesses closed on the Bank Holiday but nowadays most shops, pubs, restaurants and tourist attractive stay open as the day has evolved into a day for family adventures or in some cases an excuse to start drinking in the morning. Now, the only day in the UK where the large majority of businesses close is Christmas Day.

Bank Holidays aren’t popular with everyone though. As a seasoned barmaid I’ve always had to brace myself for the onslaught of drinkers and families with small kids that flock to the pub on the bank holiday. When a Monday lunchtime looks like a Saturday night it’s hard for bar staff to enjoy the Bank Holiday.

Back in May, Sam Jordison wrote of his hate of Bank Holidays in the Guardian. “You spend most of your time at work daydreaming about the good things you might do and see, if only you weren’t trapped behind your desk. But then, when you are finally set free, so too are all your fellow countrymen and women. Whichever castle, beach, museum, shop, film, restaurant, pub, or summer fête you thought you might visit is guaranteed to be inaccessible. ”

“Last time, I woke up on Saturday to see water oozing through a new brown stain in my bedroom ceiling and the realisation that I’d have to wait until Tuesday before I could call anyone in to do something about it.”

What do you think of the Bank Holiday? My memories are a mix of busy shifts and the traditional Aldridge August Bank Holiday Weekend camping in Wales. Do you enjoy the day off or do you agree with critics that the holidays should be scrapped. According to the CEBR (that’s the “Centre for Economics and Business Research” for all you non-economics geeks) think tank back in April Bank Holildays cost the UK £19 billion every year. Worth it for the day off? Or does the little boost in morale proof far too costly?

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