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The Easter Monday Bank Holiday is one of the most widely celebrated public holidays in the United Kingdom. It’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed. But where did this tradition originate, and how has it evolved over time? This blog post will endeavour to delve into the history of Easter Monday and its establishment as a bank holiday in the UK.

The Roots of Easter

Before we understand the Easter Monday Bank Holiday, it’s crucial to explore the roots of Easter itself.

1. The Christian Significance

Easter, a Christian festival, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the New Testament of the Bible, this miraculous event occurred three days after Christ’s crucifixion by the Romans, which is commemorated on Good Friday. Easter is often considered the most significant event in the Christian faith, as it embodies the triumph of life over death.

2. The Jewish Connection

The timing of Easter ties it closely to the Jewish festival of Passover. In fact, the Last Supper, attended by Jesus and his disciples, is generally thought to have been a Passover meal. The Hebrew term for Passover, “Pesach,” gave rise to the Latin term “Pascha,” which later became “Easter” in English.

3. The Pagan Influence

There is also an argument that Easter incorporates elements of a pagan spring festival dedicated to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and dawn. The symbols of eggs and rabbits, both associated with fertility, might have their roots here, although this is a point of debate among scholars.

The Origins of Easter Monday

Easter Monday, as the name implies, is the day after Easter Sunday. In Christian tradition, it marks the day when Jesus Christ’s disciples discovered his resurrection.

  1. Biblical Accounts: In the New Testament, specifically the Gospel of Matthew, the day after Resurrection Sunday is when the chief priests of the time assembled with the elders and devised a plan to say that Jesus’ disciples had stolen his body.
  2. Early Celebrations: The early Christians celebrated Easter Monday as the second day of the “Bright Week,” the Octave of Easter, a period of celebration marking Jesus’ resurrection.

Emergence of Bank Holidays

The term “bank holiday” can be traced back to the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, introduced by UK politician Sir John Lubbock. The Act sought to ease pressure on banks by officially designating four public holidays in England, Wales and Ireland (New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Christmas Day, and Whit Monday), and five in Scotland.

The 1871 Act

The 1871 Act, however, did not mention Easter Monday. Instead, it was Whit Monday, the day after Whitsun or Pentecost (a Christian festival celebrating the Holy Spirit’s descent onto the disciples of Jesus), that was included.

The Amended Act

Easter Monday was later added as an official bank holiday in an amendment to the 1871 Act. This change meant that workers got a day off, aligning with the long-established religious observance. Since then, Easter Monday has been observed as a bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, however, Easter Monday is not a bank holiday, but Good Friday is.

Evolution of Easter Monday Celebrations

The ways in which Easter Monday has been celebrated over the years are as diverse as they are interesting.

  1. Medieval Times: In medieval times, Easter Monday was marked by various forms of merriment and sports, like the lifting game, where men would lift women on a chair high in the air, and vice versa.
  2. Victorian Era: In the Victorian era, Easter Monday was a day for outings and picnics. Many Easter Monday traditions, like egg rolling and egg jarping (tapping hard-boiled eggs together to see which one breaks), originated during this period.
  3. Modern Celebrations: Today, the Easter Monday Bank Holiday is a day for relaxation and leisure. Some people attend special church services, while others participate in Easter egg hunts or enjoy family gatherings. In some communities, local festivals, concerts, or sports events are held.

To conclude, the history of the Easter Monday Bank Holiday is a fascinating journey through religious, cultural, and legislative narratives. It is a testament to the UK’s rich and diverse heritage, encapsulating Christian traditions, Jewish Passover connections, potential pagan influences, Victorian merriments, and modern relaxations. A holiday of many hats, indeed.