Renaming the UK’s bank holidays

Share on:

As the last bank holiday of the summer fades into memory, people around the country are nursing their sunburn and packing away their barbecues.

Shared time off plays an important role in shaping our cultural outlook. From July Fourth in the U.S. to Bastille Day in France, national holidays are a chance for the whole country to enjoy a little downtime and focus on the things that bring us closer.

But in the UK, we seem to be in a bit of a muddle when it comes to naming our bank holidays.

Of the six bank holidays we have every year, most slot easily into the cultural calendar, which makes naming them fairly unproblematic: New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, May Day and Boxing Day. Had Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn prevailed in the last election, we would have another four, presumably named after the national patron saints on whose days they fell: Saints George, Andrew, Patrick and David.

But what about the remaining two: the late May and August bank holidays? Let’s face it, however welcome the break may be, “the August Bank Holiday Weekend” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue…

As the religious and agricultural calendars become gradually less relevant, how should we go about naming these misfits? Naming a new holiday is a chance for a little social tinkering; seeding new behaviours and values more in keeping with the realities of life. The Siegel+Gale naming team rolled up their sleeves and weighed in with some light-hearted suggestions.

The Late Spring Bank Holiday: Monday 29th May 

A long weekend to give you the best possible chance of catching the elusive spring sunshine. But without a memorable name, the LSBH ends up playing second fiddle to the earlier and more charismatic May Day. Surely we can do better!

  • Dapper Day: After a winter cooped up indoors or in bulky coats, this is a day for you to dust off your best clothes and strut your stuff. Think of it as a sartorial equivalent to Spring Cleaning. 
  • Independents Day: Behind the playful name, there’s a semi-serious point. Usually giant companies co-opt bank holidays by organising massive sales. This would be a call for people to rally behind small, local businesses. We’ve watched with admiration as our client American Express managed the same feat in the U.S., with their Small Business Saturday initiative.
  • DIY Day (Day It Yourself): A day to celebrate the determination, enthusiasm and hard graft of British DIY-ers. Expect sales of sticky plasters to skyrocket.
  • Cake Day: Would anyone seriously object to rechristening the Late May bank holiday as Cake Day? It has an understatement to it which feels somehow very British. Plus, one can only assume there would be cake.
  • Off Day: A day for people to remember/imagine what life was like before every interaction had to go through at least one screen. An inversion of ‘day off’, this could become a day to unplug, leave your phone behind, go for a walk, meet a friend and enjoy a break from the digital world.
  • Bloomsday: A day set aside to enjoy the abundant growth of springtime. Evokes the distinctive, iconoclastic Britishness of the Bloomsbury Set in a memorable and optimistic name.
  • Cringe Day: Why so serious? A day to give up the facade of tastefulness and embrace the cringe. For one day a year we can enjoy all that is truly naff without judging ourselves. Too much.

The August Bank Holiday: Monday 28th August 

Heralding the closing of those dreamy late summer days, the ABHW is an important moment of shared freedom before the end of the holiday season. It deserves a little naming love.

  • Garden Day: Whether earnestly clipping roses or necking pints in the beer garden, Garden Day would be an excuse for us to dust off the deck chair, get outside and make the most of our green spaces.
  • Carnival Monday: Taking place every ABHW, Notting Hill Carnival is one of the largest street festivals on the planet—second only to the Rio Carnival in Brazil. In its current incarnation it dates back to the 60’s, but street parties have been taking place there for centuries. The word ‘carnival’ has an exuberance which is delightfully un-English, and has a great contrast when paired with Monday.
  • Brewer’s Day: The brewery is surely as much the engine room of British culture as anything else. Sure, we may already have Beer day (15th June) but who could really complain at having another, especially when that falls on a Thursday this year? Nothing says public holiday like a beer.
  • Boating Day: In this proud maritime nation, few people set foot on a boat anymore. It’s a simple idea, but believable.
  • Turning Day: With the closing days of summer, Turning Day would give people a chance to reflect on the shifting seasons in whatever way they see fit.
  • Loaf day: On the face of it, a day in which to loaf around at your ease, but also based on the day of Lammas, an ancient festival in which a loaf of bread was baked to celebrate the wheat harvest. Still part of the Scottish calendar.

Bank Holidays

While we’re at it, bank holidays as a whole could do with a recalibration. After all, who wants to equate their precious days off with the workings of a bank? We’ve been doing it since 1871; perhaps the time has come for a refresh…

  • Free Days: Clear, simple and uncontroversial. No need to reference financial institutions of any form: a free day is just a day in which you are free to do as you please. It’s a no-brainer, and makes a lot more sense. Woohoo, I’d forgotten that it’s a Free Day!
  • Gap Days: There’s already a lot of resonance in this term, like a miniature version of a Gap year. The extension of the metaphor is pretty apt: it’s time for you to devote to your own projects. I’m hoping to finish it next Gap weekend.
  • Stretch Days: Literally, days that stretch out the weekend. Also, days that encourage you to stretch yourself; do something you wouldn’t otherwise. What are you doing for the Stretch weekend?
  • Heydays: Why not repurpose a word that usually conveys nostalgia into something more directed? Heydeys could take their rightful place as a day to go out and be at your best. But you have to come out. It’s a Heyday!
  • Dally Days: Sometimes giving people permission to do nothing in particular can be a powerful thing. Dally is a great word, which makes it sound charming to have no particular agenda. What’s the hurry, anyway? It’s a Dally Day.

Tom Heesom is an associate naming strategist at Siegel+Gale. 

Let's talk about

Request a meeting