In the UK, our public holidays are called Bank Holidays, even though they have never been for bank workers only. Few holidays have fixed dates as most are held on Mondays.
Shops are open as usual on many of the holidays except Christmas Day and Easter Monday. Train and buses may run to special timetables, and will usually not run at all on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
It can be very busy in seaside towns on bank holidays in the summer.
There is an extra bank holiday in 2012 to mark the Queen being in power for 60 years (called the Diamond Jubilee). This will be on Tuesday June 5.
Here is everything you need to know about our public holidays if you are studying in the UK.
1. There are eight bank holidays in England, nine in Scotland and ten in Northern Ireland. Most of the holidays are the same across the whole UK.
2. Most UK bank holidays are linked to a religious festival or a national celebration. The August Bank Holiday is not. It is held on the last Monday in August. People treat it as the last holiday weekend of the summer and there are often big traffic jams to reach seaside resorts if the weather is good.
3. Most people in the UK do not get another public holiday for almost four months after the end of August. The exception is St Andrews Day, which is celebrated in Scotland only and only became a public holiday in 2007. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. The holiday always falls on November 30 unless this is a weekend, when the public holiday is moved to the following Monday.
4. The next bank holiday is at Christmas. The whole of the UK gets Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26) as a holiday. This is a religious festival to celebrate the birth of Christ but is more of a family celebration now.
5. New Year's Day (January 1), is a bank holiday for the whole of the UK. It is so close to Christmas that many workplaces close for business between the two holidays. This period is also marked by many sales in shops.
There are often parties on New Year's Eve and so many people are recovering on New Year's Day. It is also popular to go for a walk, though it can be very cold.
Scotland's extra Bank Holiday is on January 2, because New Year is the most important celebration of the year with many traditions about visiting family and friends.
6. The next universal bank holiday comes at Easter, a religious festival. Here most people have two days off: Good Friday and Easter Monday. Easter Monday is not a bank holiday in Scotland.
The dates move each year and can take place in March or April. People often visit family during this long weekend or take a short break. Do-It-Yourself shops are busy as people decorate their homes or work on their gardens after the winter.
7. St Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, in Northern Ireland only. St Patrick is a celebration of Irish heritage. St David's Day is widely celebrated in Wales but this is not a bank holiday.
8. There are two universal bank holidays in early summer. The first is celebrated on the first Monday of May when there was traditionally a spring festival. This bank holiday is marked with special events all over the country. These include a dawn celebration in Oxford and traditional Jack In The Green festivals in Kent and Hastings.
9. This festival is followed by the Spring Bank Holiday, which was originally a religious festival. It is held on the first Monday in June.
10. In Northern Ireland, July 12 is a bank holiday to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. It is usually marked with parades and marches.
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