Every May, the UK breathes a sigh of relief and looks forward to not one but two Bank Holidays.
The one at the beginning of the month is known as May Day, and it falls on the first Monday of that month as a celebration of springtime. The one at the end of the month, now known as the spring Bank Holiday, was originally known as Whitsun. Unlike May Day, which always falls on the first Monday of the month, Whitsun moves around the calendar as it falls on the 50th day after Easter (the seventh Sunday after Easter Sunday). Traditionally, it was regarded as an auspicious day to have your child baptised, and as people wore white for baptisms Whit Sunday may originally have been called ‘White Sunday’.
Some areas of the country still hold traditional activities on Whit Sunday. Towns across the UK still hold ‘Walks of Witness’ or ‘Processions of Witness’, groups of Christians who walk through the town carrying a cross, in remembrance of Jesus’s walk to be crucified. In St Braivels in Gloucestershire, Whit Sunday is famous as the date of the ‘bread and cheese dole’, an ancient custom that dates back to the Earl of Hereford in the 12th century. Bread and cheese, blessed by the vicar, is thrown from the wall of the castle to ‘dole claimers’, who wait below wearing medieval costume. The original claimants were locals who’d paid a penny to the Earl for the right to gather firewood in a local wood.
These days, many old Whit customs have died out, but lots of us still like to go for long walks on the spring Bank Holiday. If that’s what you’ve got planned, why not come and explore the leafy lanes and quiet paths around the Swettenham Arms? We’ve got the Quinta Lovell Arboretum and Brereton Country Park right on our doorstep, as well as a network of bridlepaths and footpaths. We welcome dogs and walking boots, and we’ve got a large beer garden as well, so drop in and see us this Bank Holiday. We’re expecting to be busy, though, so don’t forget to book!