From the Wikipedia entry on bank holidays:
Prior to 1834, the Bank of England observed about thirty-three saints' days and religious festivals as holidays, but in 1834, this was reduced to just four: 1 May, 1 November, Good Friday, and Christmas Day.
In 1871, the first legislation relating to bank holidays was passed when Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holidays Act 1871 which specified the days in the table set out below. Sir John was an enthusiastic supporter of cricket and was firmly of the belief that Bank Employees should have the opportunity to participate and attend matches when they were scheduled. Included in the dates of bank holidays are therefore dates when cricket games are traditionally played between the villages in the region where Sir John was raised. Scotland was treated separately because of its separate traditions; for example, New Year or Hogmanay is a more important holiday there.
This Monday, the bank holiday we're observing wasn't actually legislated until 1971. The observance is Whitsun, or the 49th day after Easter Sunday, otherwise known as Pentecost. Of course, few people actually know that this is the reason why, and everyone just calls it a "bank holiday weekend."
"Expect bad traffic this bank holiday weekend!"
"The weather may dampen your bank holiday plans."
"Bank holiday sale at Debenhams!"
"Come to the bank holiday car boot sale at the Cowley Park and Ride!"
It has taken a while to figure out that people don't really care that deeply about banking, it's just what the day off work is called.
What'd we do with our bank holiday? Rented a car and stayed home. Once again, we got a great deal on a VW Golf automatic. And once again, we got upgraded:
To a Toyota RAV-4. There was a time, when we were car shopping about 4 years ago, that we thought the RAV-4s were much too small. Now put that car in the home of the Mini Cooper, and you've got one giant vehicle. We had hoped to perhaps go to the coast or take some long drives, but constant, heavy rain altered our plans.
So, we took the opportunity to buy two hideous (yet charming) armchairs for our sunroom, one small and one large dresser, and a floorlamp, and to go to a New and Exciting grocery store that even had Skippy peanut butter. I bought about 6 plants, because I need some climby things to climb my boring brown fences. We also went to the dump (to drop off our broken cardboard boxes from the move), to Ely (for no particular reason other than we knew how to get there) and to Wimpole Hall, our closest National Trust site and where you will all be dragged when you come to visit.
I now think we're leaning much more toward just liberally renting a car when we need it rather than buying one. We're still a little traumatized by not being able to sell the Passat before we left, and JT's predecessor at his job had a hard time selling his car before he left England. Besides, there's something rather liberating about being a two-bicycle, no-car household, and being perfectly happy about it.