National holidays and customs in Great Britain
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National holidays and customs in Great Britain
In June the Queen’s official birthday is celebrated. On this day there is the traditional ceremony called the „Trooping the Colour“. One regiment of foot guards and one regiment of horse guards „troop“ the flag („the colour“) in front of the Queen. It is a big and spectacular ceremony with brass bands every year.
The mid-summer’s day on June 24th is marked by various special celebrations. There is a sunrise ceremony at Stonehenge and in some parts of Scotland, Cornwall or Northumbria there are lit the mid-summer fires as in pre-Christian times when this ritual was performed to give strength to the Sun and drive out devils.
On Guy Fawkes Night (Day) on November 5th English children are to be asking passers-by in the streets to „spare a penny for the guy“. If they collect enough money they can buy some fireworks. The guy - a figure of a man, stuffed with straw, paper or old rags - usually stands somewhere nearby. This figure represents Guy Fawkes, the leader of a group of men who tried to blow up the British House of Parliament in 1605. But „The Gunpowder Plot“ was discovered in last time, no explosion passed and G.Fawkes was arrested and executed. So on November 5th people fire up bonfires and there are a lot of explosions of fireworks all over England. Most families have a fireworks parties this day. Bonfire Night, what is another name for this feast, was originally Protestant demonstrations against Roman Catholics (because Guy Fawkes was a Catholic) but now it is a good occasion for funny celebration.
Rememberance Sunday is celebrated on the nearest Sunday to 11th November. There is a ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London when two minutes of silence remember those killed in the two world wars. Symbol is poppy. It symbolized a blood in a bettlefiled and the money from poppys goes to war veterans.
St.Valentine’s Day (14th February) is the day of love and lovers. People try to express their love for each other by sending Valentine’s cards. Cards usually have a lots of red hearts and pink flowers on the cover and a romantic message inside. Lovers exchange the small gifts like plush animals.
Halloween (October 31st) In Britain is celebrated only in the North of England and Scotland, but is generally celebrated in the USA and Canada. Old Celts celebrated this day as a last day of the year and the beginning of winter, when witches and ghosts were supposed to celebrate their rytes. After christianisation, it was converted to the Eve of All Saint’s Day, when we honour the memory of the dead.
People decorates their houses with spiders webs, coffins, bats and pumpkins. Pumpkins have a cut out faces and people put the candles into them (pumpkins called „jack-o-lantern“). Children dress up in Halloween costumes of ghosts, witches, wizards animals or fairy tale heroes. They carry bags and go to their friend’s and neighbour’s houses, knock at the door and when people come to open the door, children say: „Trick or treat“, which means: Give us a treat or we will play a trick on you. People usually say „Treat“ and then give the children sweets, fruit or some even money.
Easter is celebrated as in the rest of Europe. It is an ancient symbol of spring and new life. Christians remember Christ’s death and his resurrect (rising from the death, return to life).
December 31st – New Year’s Eve - People traditionally take a shower in the fountains in Trafalgar Square. The Scottish name for New Year’s Eve is Hogmanay and the first visitor on New Year brings good luck. They give each other a piece of coal and wish „Lang may your lum reek“ which express the hope that „your chimney will smoke for a long time“. At midnight, people cross arms, link hands for a traditional song Auld Lang Syne.
ChristmasChristmas is a family holiday in Britain but this celebration have a different course in Great Britain and in our country. The relatives and friends send Christmas postcards to each other and wish Merry Christmas and good luck in the New Year before Christmas. The first ever Christmas card was posted in England in the 1840s and over a billion Christmas cards are now sent every year in the United Kingdom, many of them sold in aid of charities.
Streets, shops and important buildings are decorated, there are often carol singers of the streets and Christmas tree stands in many squares. Since 1947, the country of Norway has presented Britain annually with a large Christmas tree which stands in Trafalgar Square in commemoration of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during the Second World War.
Kurssi norjan kruunu (NOK) - Norja
Christmas Eve is on the 24th of December. This is most important day in Christmas time for our country, but it isn’t holiday in Britain. People are done final preparation on this day. They shop and decorate their tree with colourful ornaments, cupping-glass, sweets, silver chains and lights. The Christmas tree was popularised by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who introduced one to the Royal Household in 1840. People take down the decorations on Twelfth Night. It’s twelve days later on the 5th January. Over the door is hung a sprig of mistletoe and if a girl or women stands under it, she can be kissed without having objections to it. Carols are often sung on Christmas Eve by groups of singers to their neighbours. Before children go to bed, they hang up Christmas stockings at the end of their beds or on the fireplace. They believe, that Father Christmas comes down the chimney at night and fills this stockings with lots of little gifts. Father Chtismas lives in Lapland (North Pole), wears red robe and he rides through the air on a sledge drawn by reindeers. Children also leave some buiscuits for Father Christmas to eat when he comes into their house. Presents for the family are placed beneath the Christmas tree.
Christmas Day is on the 25th of December. Children go to bed very early and Christmas presents are opened after breakfast. At midday is served Christmas dinner. The tradicional food in Britain is roast turkey with stuffing with chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetable and sauces and Christmas pudding for a desert. This special Xmas pudding is made of eggs, chopped candied peel, mixed dried fruit and shredded suet. It is covered with white sauce and burning of strong brandy. The pudding is usually prepared weeks beforehand. It is boiled in a basin for hours. There is a custom, when people stir a coin, thimble or ring in it, which bring wealth, work or wedding.
The pulling of Christmas crackers often accompanies food on Christmas Day.Cracker is a brightly coloured paper tube, twisted at both ends, which contains a party hat, riddle, toy or other trinket and joke on pice of paper. However, joke isn’t very good usually.
Afternoon people sing carols, which can be heard on the radio and TV. They serve mince-pies, a special Christmas sweet, at teatime some special fruit cake with marzipan, icing and sugar frosting. Another traditional feature of Christmas afternoon is the Queen’s Christmas Message to the nation, broadcast on radio and television. The day after Christmas (26th December) is known in Britain as Boxing Day, when people give postmen, milkmen, newspaper boys a Christmas Box with a gift of money or food inside a box. It’s the day of evening parties and public celebrations. For children this day means a beginning of the pantomime season. Pantomime is a theatre show based on a fairy tale with music, dancing, acrobatics and clowning.
Many Christmas customs which originated in Britain have been adopted in the United States and Canada.
On Bank Holidays (three times a year) there are convoys of cars heading to the coast and the seaside are crowded of people. The offices and banks of England are closed, no business houses, factories, shops or schools are open on these days. Many families take a picnic or tea party and enjoy their meal in the open. Many Londoners take their families to Hampstead Heath, a large park in Greater London where take place an annual fair.
Festivals of patrons:March 1st – St. David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales)
March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day (the patron saint of Ireland), they are holidays on this day in Ireland
April 23rd - St. George’s Day (the patron saint of England)
November 30 – St. Andrew’s Day (the patron saint of Scotland)
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