Bank holiday
A family wears Christmas outfits as they pose for a photograph with Santa with plexiglas in between to keep safe from Covid-19, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, on Nov. 28, 2020. Source: Lars Hagberg/AFP

What’s a bank holiday? Each country has its own sets of bank holidays that do not necessarily coincide with stock market or capital market holidays. Most school, business, and stock exchange calendars reflect closures on bank holidays

In the US, the major ones to come include November 11 (Veterans Day), November 25 (Thanksgiving Day), December 24 (Day off for Christmas Day), December 31 (Day off for New Year’s Day). 

In the UK, the upcoming bank holidays are December 27 (Christmas Day to substitute December 25 as it falls on a weekend) and December 28 (Boxing Day to substitute December 26). 

In Australia, the approaching national public holidays are December 25 (Christmas Day) and December 26 (Boxing Day). Australia has seven national public holidays with all other ones such as the Queen’s Birthday and Labour Day individually declared by state and territory governments. 

So now that we’ve gotten a little insight on some major bank holidays at popular study destinations, we’ll take a look at what the history behind what’s a bank holiday and what it means for international students:

Chinese New Year

The Lunar New Year, however, is not a bank holiday. Source: Karen Minasyan/AFP

What exactly is a bank holiday?

It’s a business day during which financial institutions are closed. This is different from a public holiday because a bank holiday is specifically for bank employees. On the other hand, a public holiday is a day that’s declared by the government due to some cultural or historical significance. 

In the UK, bank holidays are basically the same as public holidays, although not every bank holiday is a public holiday. When a bank holiday falls on a weekend, the next weekday is observed as a holiday and in the US, “federal holidays” mean bank holidays.

Although most physical branch locations for banks are closed, online banking services continue to operate. These major holidays are when people working in stock exchanges, brokerage firms and trade companies also take the day off.

A little history

As the name implies, a bank holiday is a paid holiday for bank employees. It began in the old Victorian days in the 19th century when the Bank of England in the UK observed holidays that were different from religious occasions. 

This changed with the Bank Holidays Act in 1871 introduced by Sir John Lubbock (a scientific writer, banker and politician). He was also a cricket enthusiast who added a provision for holidays for important matches that were scheduled between different regions. 

This act became a law which started out with just banks and financial buildings closing. But as time went one, businesses, shops, schools and the government followed suit.

What does this mean for international students?

If you’re taking an online course, your studies will not be affected by a bank holiday other than the fact that you might not be able to contact your tutor or faculty members on that day. But you’ll still have access to your course materials online. 

For the on-campus students, classes won’t take place on a bank holiday so facilities will be accessible but faculty members and staff will have the day off. This gives students a chance to relax and take a break. 

People usually treat bank holidays as an unofficial commerce festival so shopping malls are a hotspot for families and students. Day-trips to museums, galleries and leisure facilities are also a crowded experience but this all depends on what is open in a country due to the pandemic.