Minor British Institutions: Bank holidays

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Common law holidays, such as Christmas Day, have been celebrated for centuries, but it was not until 1871 that the British bank holiday was formally codified in law. This was principally the work of Sir John Lubbock, a politician who had a romantic belief in the rights of Englishmen to play village cricket on their statutory days off.

Paid bank holidays became the norm in the 1930s, and since then this national tradition has given rise to many smaller ones, from family trips to Margate and Morecambe, through the mods'n'rockers punch-ups in Brighton 40 years ago, to the gigantic raves of more recent memory – all conducted under weather conditions that are almost always "changeable".

The number of bank holidays has crept up, and stands at eight in England and Wales, nine in Scotland (extra for St Andrew's Day and Hogmanay, less for Easter) and 10 in Northern Ireland (where you get St Pat's Day and Orange Day off, no matter what your creed).