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With the American celebration of Veterans Day this week, thousands of government employees will enjoy a day off work in honor of veteran servicemembers.

But when people in the United Kingdom take a day off work, it’s commonly referred to as a bank holiday rather than as a remembrance of a person, group, event or belief, as it is in the United States.

The bookends of summer in the United States — Memorial Day and Labor Day — are celebrated at roughly the same time in the U.K., but by the name of bank holidays.

The British government first legislated bank holidays with Parliament’s Bank Holidays Act of 1871. The act set out what days the banks would be officially closed; it was last substantially revised in 1971.

The law does not, however, give legal leave to the millions of others working outside banks. Instead, over time, most businesses have come to recognize the bank holidays as part of a regular benefits package.

However, most business associated with tourism and travel remain open, as the bank holidays are popular for extended weekend getaways to the city and day trips to the countryside or beach.

In England and Wales, there are six bank holidays and two common law holidays. Northern Ireland has two additional bank holidays to mark St. Patrick’s Day and the Battle of the Boyne. Scotland has eight bank holidays, but they are slightly different than the rest of the U.K.

In addition, the queen can also declare special holidays, which she did for the occasion of Prince Charles’ wedding to Diana Spencer and, most recently, for her royal Jubilee in 2002.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: uknews@estripes.osd.mil


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