UK Bank Holidays

Including; seasons and other special days during 2023 and 2024

2023WeekdayDescription
22 DecemberFridayWinter Solstice - The shortest day (Yule)
2024WeekdayDescription
20 MarWednesdayNorthward, Vernal or March equinox - First day of Spring (12 Hours of daylight) Ostara
20 JunThursdaySummer Solstice - The longest day (Midsummer)
22 SepSundayAutumnal Equinox - First day of Autumn (12 hours of daylight) Mabon
21 DecSaturdayWinter Solstice - The shortest day (Yule)

If a bank holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, a substitute weekday will become the bank holiday. This is usually the following Monday.

Ostara

Ostara, celebrated around the time of the Spring Equinox between March 20th and 23rd, marks a period of rebirth and renewal, capturing the essence of spring's arrival. Rooted in various traditions, including Germanic paganism and later incorporated into Wiccan and neopagan observances, Ostara is especially relevant to contemporary spiritual communities within the British Isles.

The festival borrows its name from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring and dawn, and serves as a time to celebrate the burgeoning life and vitality that spring brings. Traditional symbols associated with Ostara, such as eggs and hares, are emblematic of fertility and new beginnings. These motifs are not just metaphysical but are often represented in tangible forms, like the decorating of eggs or the incorporation of floral elements into rituals and gatherings.

In the United Kingdom, Ostara may be observed through various customs and ceremonies that underscore the interconnectedness of humanity and the natural world. Rituals often involve planting seeds, both literal and metaphorical, to foster growth in the coming months. The lighting of fires and candles can also play a role, symbolising the increasing power of the sun as the days lengthen.

Although Ostara is not a mainstream festival in the United Kingdom, it resonates strongly with those aligned with neopagan and Wiccan paths, as well as individuals who seek to attune themselves with the cycles of nature. As daffodils bloom and trees burst into leaf, Ostara provides a spiritual framework for appreciating the impermanence and beauty of life, offering a moment of pause to reflect on renewal, both of the earth and of the self.

Midsummer

Midsummer, observed around the Summer Solstice, usually between June 20th and 24th, is a celebration of the zenith of summer and the height of the solar year. In the British Isles, this festival has ancient roots that extend back to pre-Christian times and is often associated with various Celtic traditions. Although the specific customs can vary significantly across regions, they are united by a focus on celebrating the power and warmth of the sun at its peak.

In England, one of the most iconic celebrations takes place at Stonehenge, where people gather to witness the sunrise aligning with the Heel Stone, creating a mesmerizing spectacle of light and shadow. Bonfires are another traditional element of Midsummer celebrations, symbolising the sun and serving as a focal point for communal gatherings. Fire is seen as purifying and empowering, and in some traditions, people leap over the bonfire to bring good fortune and to ward off evil spirits.

In Scotland and Wales, the festival is often woven into local folklore and legends, featuring a mix of Christian and pagan symbols. It may include the gathering of medicinal plants like St. John's Wort, thought to be most potent when harvested on Midsummer's Eve, and rituals that focus on divination and foresight.

Despite the variations in its observance, Midsummer in the British Isles serves as a potent reminder of the cycles of nature and the interconnectedness of life. Whether through dancing around a maypole, participating in traditional games, or simply pausing to appreciate the beauty of a Midsummer's evening, the festival invites one to bask in the fullness of the season. It's a moment to celebrate abundance, to reflect on the year's growth, and to look forward to the harvest yet to come.

Mabon

Mabon, celebrated around the time of the Autumn Equinox, typically between September 21st and 24th, marks a period of balance and reflection. As day and night stand in equal measure, the festival ushers in the waning part of the year, when the earth prepares to withdraw and conserve its energies. While Mabon is a relatively modern name, often used in Wiccan and neopagan traditions, the observance of the autumnal equinox has ancient roots in the British Isles, encompassing both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon customs.

In the United Kingdom, Mabon is often seen as a time to give thanks for the summer's bounty and to prepare for the darker months ahead. It serves as a spiritual counterpart to the agricultural harvest festivals that are traditionally held during this season. Common practices include the gathering and preservation of fruits and vegetables, as well as the adornment of altars and homes with seasonal elements like leaves, acorns, and gourds.

Rituals conducted during Mabon frequently focus on the themes of balance, harmony, and gratitude. Bonfires may be lit to symbolise the waning sun, and feasting plays a central role, often featuring foods like apples, pears, and root vegetables that are associated with the season. The occasion also invites introspection, offering a sacred space to contemplate personal harvests, whether they be achievements, milestones, or inner transformations.

Although Mabon may not be universally recognised across all social spheres in the British Isles, it holds particular resonance for those who seek to live in harmony with the natural world. As the leaves turn and the air grows crisp, Mabon serves as a poignant reminder of nature’s cyclical rhythm, inviting reflection on the year’s transitions and the impermanence of all things.

Yule

Yule, observed around the time of the Winter Solstice between December 20th and 23rd, marks the darkest period of the year and the subsequent return of the light. With roots steeped in ancient Norse traditions, Yule has been embraced and transformed over time, particularly in the British Isles, where it has melded with various Celtic and Christian practices.

In medieval England, Yule was a time for feasting and merriment, a tradition that continues to this day. The burning of the Yule log is one of its most iconic customs; this large piece of wood is chosen with care and is often decorated before being ceremonially lit. The fire it provides is symbolic, meant to conquer the darkness and to bring warmth and light into homes at the height of winter.

In Scotland, the holiday takes on additional layers of complexity, influenced by local customs such as the celebration of Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year. In Wales, the tradition of Wassailing, or the singing of carols, often takes prominence during the Yule period. Additionally, evergreens like holly and ivy, considered symbols of eternal life, are commonly used for decoration, a practice that harkens back to Druidic rituals.

Though it has evolved and been Christianised into what is commonly now celebrated as Christmas, Yule retains its own distinct set of practices and meanings, particularly for those in neopagan and Wiccan communities. Whether observed through the gathering of family and friends around sumptuous feasts, or as a more spiritual celebration marked by rituals that honour the rebirth of the sun, Yule in the British Isles serves as a potent symbol of resilience and renewal at the year's end. It invites introspection even as it encourages joyous celebration, capturing the duality inherent in the season's darkness and the returning light.

Next


22 December

Winter Solstice - The shortest day (Yule)

The sale of arts and crafts at fairs and show has seasonal variations. If you are able to add a theme to your table that pertains to the appropriate time of year, you may see an increase in sales. Specific products will do better than generic products but just having an appropriate sign could work, e.g. Ideal Easter Gifts, Christmas Presents, Great for Fathers Day etc.

The tables below shows a collection of important dates in the UK calendar. If you are only interested in one type of event use the filter. Click on the link below each month to view the craft events calendar. If you would like to be notified of craft events in your region; the week before they take pace, sign up for the craft weekly newsletter.

A bank holiday is in affect a public holiday. We use the word bank because they first appeared in the 19th century with the introduction of the Bank Holidays Act of 1871. In the act, there were four dates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and five in Scotland, they left out Christmas Day and Good Friday (and Sunday) as they were already traditional days off for Christian worship.

We have not seen any new bank holidays since the 1970s. A few were changed when the old act was replaced by the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, then there was a change in 1973, 1974 and 1978.

Any new Bank holidays since 1971 would be appointed by Royal Proclamation. Except for in Northern Ireland where it is the role of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

There are four national days in the UK. The dates stay the same each year and they are an opportunity to celebrate the patron saints of each nation - St David (Wales), St Patrick (Ireland), St George (England) and St Andrew (Scotland). Unfortunately, these are not bank holidays in either England or Wales - which is perhaps why they are not as well celebrated.

Twice a year, (the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October) the clocks change. They spring forward an hour in March and go back an hour in October. This is sometimes known as Daylight Saving Time, which gives a better description of why we do it. It was introduced back in the early 20th century thanks to William Willet, who believed that the summer mornings were being lost whilst people slept.

The starting date for each season changes by a day or so each year. An equinox (March and September) is when the day and the night are of approximately the same length. A solstice is when the sun reaches its highest or lowest points in the sky at noon, which results in the longest and shortest days.

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day and the start of winter but it is a day to celebrate (20-23 December), as from then onwards the days will start to get lighter for longer. You may want to sit outside (cold) burning your Yule log, eating, telling tales, singing and perhaps drinking some mead. Interesting fact that Yuletide in Old Norse could be translated to Yule father, seems familiar.

The wheel of the Year includes eight ceremonial days, Imbolc - time for a spring clean (2 February), Ostara (19-22 March), Beltane (1 May), Midsummer (19-23 June), Lughnasadh (1 Aug), Mabon (21-24 September), Samhain (1 Nov) and Yule (20-23 Dec).

Throughout the year there are lots of days that have a special meaning or significance like mothers day or bonfire night. They have normally come about due to popularity or historical significance.

Midsummer or St John the Baptists day (24 June) is an interesting date because it is set near to the Summer Solstice (the longest day - 19-23 June) and people celebrate Midsummers Eve, the eve of St Johns day.