The English Calendar Holidays

Cross of St. George

Terribly confusing to be reading along in Austen or Dickens or even Miss Read, and come into a passage describing something happening in Michaelmas Term.

Boxing Day is a little more familiar, but still kind of wispy or vague to most Americans.

Hence, some lists for quick reference. It may be helpful to others; certainly it will be for me.

Reference guide for older literature

Twelfth Night January 5
Epiphany January 6
Plough Monday First Monday after Epiphany
Hilary Term (law courts) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Cambridge) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Oxford) Begins in January
Candlemas February 2

Lady Day (a quarter day) March 25
Easter Term (Oxford)
Easter Term (Cambridge)
Easter In March or April
Easter Term (law courts) Begins after Easter
Ascension 40 days after Easter
Whitsunday (Pentecost) 50 days after Easter
May Day May 1

Midsummer(a quarter day) June 24
Trinity Term (law term) Begins after Whitsunday
Trinity Term (Oxford) Begins in June
Lammas (Loaf Mass) August 1

Michaelmas (a quarter day) September 29
Michaelmas Term Begins in October
Michaelmas Term Begins in November
All Hallows, All Saints November 1
All Souls November 2
Guy Fawkes Day November 5
Martinmas November 11

Christmas (a quarter day) December 25
Boxing Day Generally first week after Christmas
“Term” refers to both academic and court sessions. Session was the preferred word after 1873 for the court.

Quarter days were the beginning day for a quarterly commitment for a labor contract or rent.

Modern Calendar Public Holidays
New Year’s Day January 1
Good Friday variable
Easter Monday variable
May Day Bank Holiday 1st Monday in May (formerly Whit Monday until 1971)
Spring Bank Holiday Last Monday in May
Late Summer Bank Holiday Last Monday in August
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26

St. Andrew’s Day, honoring the patron saint of Scotland is an official holiday in Scotland and is celebrated on November 30.

However, St. George’s Day (honoring the patron saint of England) is not an official bank holiday, but celebrated by patriotic English citizens. Wikipedia says: “The date of St George’s day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England’s calendar, when St George’s Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter.”

Information was gathered from the book “What Jane Austen At and Charles Dickens Knew” by Daniel Pool and this Wikipedia article on English Holidays.


Filed under 1800s, Books, England, Holidays, Jane Austen, Jane Austen, Reference

4 responses to “The English Calendar Holidays

  1. Hi Carla, This is a very helpful post. I’m living in England, as you know, and am still learning things – something new every day, it seems!

    • Are you an American? Will you be there very long?

      Back in the 1990s my husband and I lived there for several months and it really was a learning process! I never did get used to looking to the right before crossing the street.

      I keep thinking about doing a blog post on American words/terms and their British equivalents. Maybe you could suggest a few?

      Thanks for visiting my blog!

      • Yes, I’m American, my husband is English. We moved back to the UK 2 years ago after living in America for 6 years after we got married. We are back here for good. I have Permanent Residency and will get my UK Citizenship next year!

        Good idea about the blog post. One word that immediately comes to mind is “ring”, as in calling someone on the telephone. I still say, “So-and-so called” but my husband points out that “call” could mean that they stopped by. I’ve noticed that most Brits use the term “ring” instead of “call” with regard to the telephone.

        Also the word “sick”. If I am not well, I will say that I am “sick”, but usually a Brit would say they are “ill”. In the UK, the term “sick” usually means throwing up.

      • Good points! Once I told one of my English friends that someone had called, and she thought I meant they had been to our house.

        Hadn’t thought about the word sick, but of course, you’re correct.

        The first time I heard “aluminium” it surprised me, and as with a lot of other words, it’s actually spelled differently.

        Now I’ll be thinking of these all day….

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