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Why do we Celebrate May Day

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Published 03/05/2021
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Today (Monday 3rd May 2021) marks May Day, a yearly bank holiday in the United Kingdom. Most of us associate it with a long weekend and a trip to the pub, but most of us have no idea what May Day actually is and why it’s celebrated (including me until I wrote this blog.)

So then, what is May Day? And why is it celebrated on the first Monday of May each year? In today’s blog I’m going to answer those questions.

So, what is May Day and why do we celebrate it?

May Day is associated with the maypole, a tall, wooden pole which is danced around in celebration. The earliest records of maypole celebrations in the UK date back to the 1300s, with the practice being well established in the south of Britain by the 15th century.

From 1649-1660 May Day celebrations were banned, but were subsequently legalised when Charles II returned from exile in the latter year.

Whilst the tradition of May Day has become less commonplace in recent decades, it still persists sporadically across the UK, particularly in Cambridgeshire’s historic Isle of Ely. This also includes crowning a ‘May Queen’ - who is crowned by flowers and begins the day’s celebrations.

As mentioned at the start of the blog, to the average Briton, May Day means one thing: a day off work. The bank holiday is ‘celebrated’ on the first Monday of May each year, and is one of six days off spread across the country’s calendar every 12 months.

The bank holiday was created in 1978. Due to the congestion of Bank Holidays in the UK - with 4 of the 6 falling in April and May - there has been discussion of moving the May Day bank holiday to another time of the year, so that the bank holidays are more spread across 12 months.

There has been particular chatter about moving the May Day bank holiday to October, however nothing of the sort has ever occurred.

When you’re out on a walk today, sat with a pint at the pub or simply enjoying a nice lie-in, you may very well think to yourself: “Why is this a bank holiday again?” And now you know.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you found it interesting. For more blogs on similar subjects, please visit

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