Although a strong tradition during the 19th and 20th centuries, the observance of the holiday has almost disappeared in recent times due to the decline of the manufacturing industries in the United Kingdom and the standardisation of school holidays across England.
When, therefore, Almighty God shall bring you to the most reverend man our brother bishop, St Augustine, tell him what I have, upon mature deliberation on the affair of the English, thought of; namely, that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed. Let holy water be made, and sprinkled in the said temples; let altars be erected, and let relics be deposited in them. For since those temples are built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of the devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, not seeing those temples destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort to the same places to which they have been accustomed. And because they are wont to sacrifice many oxen in honour of the devils, let them celebrate a religious and solemn festival, not slaughtering the beasts for devils, but to be consumed by themselves, to the praise of God...
Every church at its consecration was given the name of a patron saint, and either the day of its consecration or the saint's feast day became the church's festival. Church services began at sunset on Saturday and the night of prayer was called a vigil, eve or, due to the late hour "wake", from the Old English waecan. Each village had a wake with quasi-religious celebrations such as rushbearing followed by church services then sports, games, dancing and drinking. As wakes became more secular the more boisterous entertainments were moved from the sabbath to Saturday and Monday was reserved for public entertainments such as bands, games and funfairs.
During the Industrial Revolution the tradition of the wakes was adapted into a regular summer holiday particularly, but not exclusively, in the North of England and industrialised areas of the Midlands where each locality nominated a wakes week during which the local factories, collieries and other industries closed for a week. The wakes holiday started as an unpaid holiday when the mills and factories were closed for maintenance.