CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
Tourist guides commonly
paint a view of a rural Britain that is not always recognisable to those who live here. The countryside is regarded
by many as "real England",
but in fact, the great majority of people live in
cities or their suburbs. People's lives in the UK,
like many others throughout the world, are a mixture
of the old and the new. City dwellers love to visit
the countryside. But the abolition of fox hunting,
regarded by many city dwellers as long overdue, has
been bitterly contested by most country dwellers who
see it as a denial of their values and traditions.
Festivals and other
traditions continue to exist in all parts of the country,
but their existence depends almost entirely on the
continued support of those who live in the local community.
Sport of all kind plays a major part in many people's
lives. Football, rugby, and cricket all have a large
following, and success on the sporting field is a
great source of local and national pride.
Major sporting events, such as the Grand National
horse race, the Football Association (FA) Cup Final,
and the Wimbledon tennis championships, capture the
attention of many people in Britain,
including those who do not normally follow these sports.
National days are not celebrated in Britain in the
same way as they are in a number of other countries.
Only in Northern Ireland (and the Republic of Ireland)
is St Patrick's Day taken as an official holiday.
The greatest celebrations are normally reserved for
the New Year and the Christian festivals of Christmas
1st March St David's Day, the national day of Wales
17th March St
Patrick's Day, the national day of both Northern Ireland
and the Republic of Ireland
23rd April St
George's Day, the national day of England
30th November St Andrew's Day, the national day of
There are also four
public holidays a year, called Bank Holidays, when
legislation requires banks and most businesses to
close. These are of no nationalistic or religious
Religious and traditional festivals
Most religious festivals in Britain are based on the
Christian tradition, but also widely recognised
are customs and traditions such as Eid
ul-Fitr, Divali and Yom Kippur,
belonging to other religions Many of these are explained
to children n all the schools as part of their lessons
in religious education, and they are celebrated by
followers of these faiths in their communities.
The main Christian and traditional festivals
Christmas Day, December 25th celebrates the birth of
Jesus Christ. It is normally seen as a time to be
spent at home with one's family. Preparations often
begin three or four weeks beforehand, as people decide
what presents to buy for close family and friends.
A Christmas tree
is usually decorated and installed in the entrance
hall or living room, around which presents are placed
before they are opened on Christmas Day. Christmas
cards are normally sent to family and friends from
the beginning of December. Non-Christians usually
send cards too, which will often simply say 'seasons
Greetings'. Houses are decorated with special Christmas
garlands, and sometimes a wreath of holly on the front
door. Mistletoe is often hung above doorways, beneath
which couples should traditionally kiss. Christmas
is both a religious and a secular holiday, celebrated
by believers and non-believers alike. Many families
attend a church service, either at midnight on Christmas
Eve, or on Christmas morning.
Children hang up
a long sock, stocking, or pillowcase at the foot of
their bed, or around the fireplace for Father Christmas
to fill with presents. On Christmas Day families traditionally
sit down to a dinner of roast turkey, followed by
Christmas pudding - a rich steamed pudding
made from suet, dried fruit and spices.
The British Father
Christmas is a cheerful old man with a beard, dressed
in a red suit trimmed with fur. He travels from an
area close to the North Pole on a sledge pulled by
reindeer, delivering presents to children. The Father
Christmas we have today is often said to be based
on folklore that Dutch, German, and Swedish settlers
brought to America,
although there are a number of other rival theories
explaining his origins.
Boxing Day, the
26th December, refers to a time when servants, gardeners,
and other trades people used to receive money (a Christmas
box) in appreciation for the work they had done throughout
the year. Many people stall give to postmen.
Boxing Day is a holiday in Britain,
where people visit family and friends and continue
with Christmas festivities. It is also a popular day
for sporting activities - weather permitting.
New Year, January
1st, is celebrated in Britain,
as it is in many countries throughout the world Parties
or celebrations begin on New Year's Eve, and when
midnight arrives everybody cheers and drinks a toast
for good luck in the coming year.
New Year can be a bigger festival than Christmas.
Here there is a tradition in many homes of first footing,
in which the first visitor of the New Year brings
in particular items such as coal, bread and whisky
intended to ensure prosperity for the coming year.
on the stroke of midnight, the back door is opened
to release the Old Year. It is then locked to keep
the luck in, and at the last stroke, the front door
opened to let in the New Year.
Easter, which takes
place in March or April, commemorates the Crucifixion
and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, although it is named
after the Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, whose feast took place at the spring equinox. Easter,
like Christmas, has become increasingly secular, and
often taken as an opportunity for a holiday.
Easter eggs, made
from chocolate (traditionally, decorated chicken's
eggs) are given as presents, particularly to children,
symbolising new life and
the coming of spring. Some places hold festivals and
fairs on Easter Monday.-
St Valentine's Day, February 14th, is the day when boyfriends,
girlfriends, husbands, and wives traditionally exchange
cards and presents; cards are unsigned as if from
three weeks before Easter, is a day on which children,
young and old, remember their mothers by giving them
flowers or chocolates and trying to make their day
as easy and enjoyable as possible.
April Fool's Day, April 1st, is the day when people may play jokes
on one another - but only until 12
noon. Sometimes even radio, television, and newspapers
try to fool people with fake stories and jokes. The
tradition is believed to have originated in sixteenth
Guy Fawkes Night, November 5th, commemorates the Gunpowder Plot
in 1605 when a small group of Catholics are said to
have plotted to kill the King by blowing up the Houses
of Parliament. Soldiers arrested Guido (Guy) Fawkes who was allegedly guarding the explosives beneath Parliament.
Today he is remembered with fireworks and the burning
of a "Guy" on a bonfire.
November 11th, keeps alive the memory of those who
died in both World Wars and in later conflicts. Many
people now hold a two minute silence at 11 am in remembrance
of this, for it was at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh
day, of the eleventh month in 1918 that the First
World War (often called the Great War) finally came
to an end.
The terrible fighting
in the fields of Northern France and Flanders
devastated the countryside and, in the disturbed earth
of the bomb craters, it was the poppy that was one
of the first plants to regrow.
So this blood-red flower has come to symbolise
the sacrifice of those who fall in war.
Today, in the period before Remembrance Day, artificial
poppies are sold in shops and on the streets and many
people wear them in their buttonholes in memory of