The holiday was originally celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost, which is known as Whitsun or Whit Monday in the United Kingdom. It was moved the to the last Monday in May in 1971 and has been celebrated then ever since, with just 2 exceptions: in 2002 it was celebrated on June 4 to follow an extra bank holiday on June 3, giving people a four‑day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and in 2012 it was celebrated on June 4 to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
There are some traditional events associated with this time of year. In the village of Brockworth, Gloucestershire, people assemble on Cooper’s Hill to take part in a race in pursuit of large, round pieces of cheese as they roll down the steep hillside. Whoever finishes first in this “cheese race” wins an eight-pound wheel of Double Gloucester. In Endon, Staffordshire, the villagers celebrate by dressing up the local well and crowning a local maiden as the “Well-Dressing Queen”. The local men take part in a “Tossing the Sheaf” contest, which involves tossing straw bales into the air, with whoever tosses his bale highest proclaimed the winner.
Here at LKT, although we won’t be chasing cheese or tossing straw bales, we will be engaging in a variety of activities including celebrating two birthdays, spectating at a half‑marathon, camping, attending a music festival, tasting the wares on offer at a street food market in London, trampolining and riding on a barge … we’ll be coming back to work next Tuesday for a rest!