Holidays and traditions in english-speaking countries

Holidays and traditions in english-speaking countries

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

I. Britain round the calendar.


There are only six public holidays a year in Great Britain, that is

days on which people need not go in to work. They are: Christmas Day,

Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Spring Bank Holiday and Late Summer

Bank Holiday. In Scotland, the New Years Day is also a public holiday.

Most of these holidays are of religious origin, though it would be right to

say that for the greater part of the population they have long lost their

religious significance and are simply days on which people relax, eat,

drink and make merry. All the public holidays, except Christmas Day and

Boxing Day observed on December 25th and 26th respectively, are movable,

that is they do not fall on the same day each year. Good Friday and Easter

Monday depend on Easter Sunday which falls on the first Sunday after a full

moon on or after March 21st. the Spring Bank Holiday falls on the last

Monday of May or on the first Monday of June, while the Late Summer Bank

Holiday comes on the last Monday in August or on the first Monday in

September, depending on which of the Mondays is nearer to June 1st and

September 1st respectively.

Besides public holidays, there are other festivals, anniversaries and

simply days, for example Pancake Day and Bonfire Night, on which certain

traditions are observed, but unless they fall on a Sunday, they are

ordinary working days.


In England the New Year is not as widely or as enthusiastically

observed as Christmas. Some people ignore it completely and go to bed at

the same time as usual on New Years Eve. Many others, however, do

celebration it in one way or another, the type of celebration varying very

much according to the local custom, family traditions and personal taste.

The most common type of celebration is a New Year party, either a

family party or one arranged by a group of young people. This usually

begins at about eight oclock and goes on until the early hours of the

morning. There is a lot of drinking, mainly beer, wine, gin and whisky;

sometimes the hosts make a big bowl of punch which consists of wine,

spirits, fruit juice and water in varying proportions. There is usually a

buffer of cold meat, pies, sandwiches, savouries, cakes and biscuits. At

midnight the wireless is turned on, so that everyone can hear the chimes of

Big Ben, and on the hour a toast is drunk to the New Year. Then the party

goes on.

Another popular way of celebrating the New Year is to go to a New

Years dance. Most hotels and dance halls hold a special dance on New

Years Eve. The hall is decorated, there are several different bands and

the atmosphere is very gay.

The most famous celebration is in London round the statue of Eros in

Piccadilly Circus where crowds gather and sing and welcome the New Year. In

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

Trafalgar Square there is also a big crowd and someone usually falls into

the fountain.

Those who have no desire or no opportunity to celebrate the New Year

themselves can sit and watch other people celebrating on television. It is

an indication of the relative unimportance of the New Year in England that

the television producers seem unable to find any traditional English

festivities for their programmers and usually show Scottish ones.

January 1st, New Years Day, is not a public holiday, unfortunately

for those who like to celebrate most of the night. Some people send New

Year cards and give presents but this is not a widespread custom. This is

the traditional time for making New Year resolutions, for example, to

give up smoking, or to get up earlier. However, these are generally more

talked about than put into practice.

Also on New Years Day the New Year Honours List is published in

the newspapers; i.e. a list of those who are to be given honours of various

types knighthoods, etc.

In Canada New Years Day has a long tradition of celebration. New

Years Eve in French Canada was (and still is) marked by the custom of

groups of young men, to dress in COLOURful attire and go from house to

house, singing and begging gifts for the poor. New Years Day was (and is)

a time for paying calls on friends and neighbours and for asking the

blessing of the head of the family. The early Governors held a public

reception for the men of the community on New Years morning, a custom

preserved down to the present day. While New Years Day is of less

significance in English Canada than in French Canada, its a public holiday

throughout the country. Wide spread merry-making begins on New Years Eve

with house parties, dinner dances and special theatre entertainment. A

customary feature of the occasion that suggests the Scottish contribution

to the observation is the especially those that couldnt be arranged for

Christmas, are held on New Years Day. New Year isnt such important

holiday in England as Christmas. Some people dont celebrate it at all.

In USA many people have New Year parties. A party usually begins at

about 8 oclock and goes on until early morning. At midnight they listen to

the chimes of Big Ben, drink a toast to the New Year and Sing Auld Lang


In London crowds usually gather round the statue of Eros in Piccadilly

Circus and welcome the New Year.

There are some traditions on New Years Day. One of them is the old

First Footing. The first man to come into the house is very important. The

Englishman believes that he brings luck. This man (not a woman) must be

healthy, young, pretty looking. He brings presents-bread, a piece of coal

or a coin. On the New Years Day families watch the old year out and the

New Year in.

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In Scotland the New Years Day is also a public holiday. Some people

ignore it completely and go to bed at the same time as usual on New Years

Eve. Many others, however, do celebrate it in one way or another, the type

of celebration varying very much according to the local custom, family

tradition and personal taste.

The most common type of celebration is a New Year party, either a

family party or one arranged by a group of young people. This usually

begins at about eight oclock and goes on until the early hours of the

morning. There is a lot of drinking, mainly beer, wine, gin and whisky;

sometimes the hosts make a big bowl of punch which consists of wine,

spirits, fruit juice and water in varying proportions. There is usually a

buffet supper of cold meat, pies, sandwiches, savories, cakes and biscuits.

At midnight the wireless is turned on, so that everyone can hear the chimes

of Big Ben, and on the hour a toast is drunk to the New Year. Then the

party goes on.

Hogmanay Celebrations

Hogmanay is a Scottish name for New Years Eve, and is a time for

merrymaking, the giving of presents and the observance of the old custom of

First Footing. One of the most interesting of Scottish Hogmanay

celebrations is the Flambeaux Procession at Comrie, Perthshire. Such

processions can be traced back to the time of the ancient Druids. There is

a procession of townsfolk in fancy dress carrying large torches. They are

led by pipers. When the procession has completed its tour, the flambeaux

(torches) are thrown into a pile, and everyone dances around the blaze

until the torches have burned out.

The Night of Hogmanay

Nowhere else in Britain is the arrival of the New Year celebrated so

wholeheartedly as in Scotland.

Throughout Scotland, the preparations for greeting the New Year start

with a minor spring-cleaning. Brass and silver must be glittering and

fresh linen must be put on the beds. No routine work may be left

unfinished; stockings must be darned, tears mended, clocks wound up,

musical instruments tuned, and pictures hung straight. In addition, all

outstanding bills are paid, overdue letters written and borrowed books

returned. At least, that is the idea!

Most important of all, there must be plenty of good things to eat.

Innumerable homes reek of celestial grocery plum puddings and currant

buns, spices and cordials, apples and lemons, tangerines and toffee. In

mansion and farmhouse, in suburban villa and city tenement, the table is

spread with festive fare. Essential to Hogmanay are cakes and kebbuck

(oatcakes and cheese), shortbread, and either black bun or currant loaf.

There are flanked with bottles of wine and the mountain dew that is the

poetic name for whisky.

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In the cities and burghs, the New Year receives a communal welcome,

the traditional gathering-place being the Mercat Cross, the hub and symbol

of the old burgh life. In Edinburgh, however, the crowd has slid a few

yards down the hill from the Mercat Cross to the Tron Kirk being lured

thither, no doubt, by the four-faced clock in the tower. As the night

advances, Princes Street becomes as thronged as it normally is at noon, and

there is growing excitement in the air. Towards midnight, all steps turn to

the Tron Kirk, where a lively, swaying crowd awaits the Chaplin o the

Twal (the striking of 12 oclock). As the hands of the clock in the tower

approach the hour, a hush falls on the waiting throng, the atmosphere grows

tense, and then suddenly there comes a roar from a myriad throats. The

bells forth, the sirens scream the New Year is born!

Many families prefer to bring in the New Year at home, with music or

dancing, cards or talk. As the evening advances, the fire is piled high

for the brighter the fire, the better the luck. The members of the

household seat themselves round the hearth, and when the hands of the clock

approach the hour, the head of the house rises, goes to the main door,

opens it wide, and holds it thus until the last stroke of midnight has died

away. Then he shuts it quietly and returns to the family circle. He has let

the Old Year out and the New Year in. now greetings and small gifts are

exchanged, glasses are filled and already the First-Footers are at the


The First-Footer, on crossing the threshold, greets the family with

A gude New Year to ane and a! or simply A Happy New Year! and pours

out a glass from the flask he carries. This must be drunk to the dregs by

the head of the house, who, in turn, pours out a glass for each of his

visitors. The glass handed to the First-Footer himself must also be drunk

to the dregs. A popular toast is:

Your good health!

The First-Footers must take something to eat as well as to drink, and

after an exchange of greetings they go off again on their rounds.


Ill be your sweetheart, if you will be mine,

All of my life Ill be your Valentine

Its here again, the day when boys and girls, sweethearts and lovers,

husbands and wives, friends and neighbours, and even the office staff will

exchange greetings of affections, undying love or satirical comment. And

the quick, slick, modern way to do it is with a Valentine card.

There are all kinds, to suit all tastes, the lush satin cushions,

boxed and be-ribboned, the entwined hearts, gold arrows, roses, cupids,

doggerel rhymes, sick sentiment and sickly sentimentality its all there.

The publishers made sure it was there, as Mr Punch complained, there weeks

in advance!

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In his magazine, Punch, as long ago as 1880 he pointed out that no

sooner was the avalanche of Christmas cards swept away than the publishers

began to fill the shops with their novel valentines, full of Hearts and

Darts, Loves and Doves and Floating Fays and Flowers.

It must have been one of these cards which Charles Dickens describes

in Pickwick Papers. It was a highly coloured representation of a couple of

human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cooking before a cheerful

fire and superintending the cooking was a highly indelicate young

gentleman in a pair of wings and nothing else.

In the last century, sweet-hearts of both sexes would spend hours

fashioning a homemade card or present. The results of some of those

painstaking efforts are still preserved in museums. Lace, ribbon, wild

flowers, coloured paper, feathers and shells, all were brought into use. If

the aspiring (or perspiring) lover had difficulty in thinking up a message

or rhyme there was help at hand. He could dip into the quiver of Love or

St. Valentines Sentimental Writer, these books giving varied selections to

suit everyones choice. Sam Weller, of Pick wick Papers fame, took an hour

and a half to write his Valentine, with much blotting and crossing out

and warnings from his father not to descend to poetry.

The first Valentine of all was a bishop, a Christian martyr, who

before the Romans put him to death sent a note of friendship to his

jailers blind daughter.

The Christian Church took for his saints day February 14; the date

of an old pagan festival when young Roman maidens threw decorated love

missives into an urn to be drawn out by their boy friends.

A French writer who described how the guests of both sexes drew lots

for partners by writing down names on pieces of paper noted this idea of

lottery in 17th century England. It is all the rage, he wrote.

But apparently to bring the game into a family and friendly

atmosphere one could withdraw from the situation by paying a forfeit,

usually a pair of gloves.

One of the older versions of a well-known rhyme gives the same


The rose is red, the violets are blue,

The honeys sweet and so are you.

Thou art my love and I am thine.

I drew thee to my Valentine.

The lot was cast and then I drew

And fortune said it should be you.

Comic valentines are also traditional. The habit of sending gifts is

dying out, which must be disappointing for the manufacturers, who

nevertheless still hopefully dish out presents for Valentines Day in an

attempt to cash in. and the demand for valentines is increasing. According

to one manufacturer, an estimated 30 million cards will have been sent by

January, 14 and not all cheap stuff, either.

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

Our cards cost from 6d to 15s 6d, he says, but ardent youngsters

want to pay more. They can pay more. I saw a red satin heart-shaped

cushion enthroning a pearl necklace and earrings for 25s. Another, in

velvet bordered with gold lace, topped with a gilt leaf brooch, was 21s

(and if anyone buys them well, it must be love!).

There are all kinds:

The sick joke reclining lady on the front, and inside she will kick

you in the ear.

The satirical You are charming, witty, intelligent, etc., and if

you believe all this you must be inside the card you find an animated

cuckoo clock.

And the take-off of the sentimental Heres the key to my heart

use it before I change the lock.

And the attempts to send a serious message without being too sickly,

ending with variations of mine and thine and Valentine.

So in the 20th century, when there are no longer any bars to

communication between the sexes, the love missives of an older, slower

time, edged carefully over the counters by the publishers and shopkeepers,

still surge through the letter boxes.


Pancake Day is the popular name for Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding

the first day of Lent. In medieval times the day was characterized by

merrymaking and feasting, a relic of which is the eating of pancakes.

Whatever religious significance Shrove Tuesday may have possessed in the

olden days, it certainly has none now. A Morning Star correspondent who

went to a cross-section of the people he knew to ask what they knew about

Shrove Tuesday received these answers:

Its the day when I say to my wife: Why dont we make pancakes? and

she says, No, not this Tuesday! Anyway, we can make them any time.

It is a religious festival the significance of which escapes me. What

I do remember is that it is Pancake Day and we as children used to brag

about how many pancakes we had eaten.

Its pancake day and also the day of the student rags. Pancakes

luscious, beautiful pancakes. I never know the date bears some

relationship to some holy day.

The origin of the festival is rather obscure, as is the origin of the

custom of pancake eating.

Elfrica Viport, in her book on Christian Festivals, suggests that

since the ingredients of the pancakes were all forbidden by the Church

during Lent then they just had to be used up the day before.

Nancy Price in a book called Pagans Progress suggests that the

pancake was a thin flat cake eaten to stay the pangs of hunger before

going to be shriven (to confession).

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In his Seasonal Feasts and Festivals E. O. James links up Shrove

Tuesday with the Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) festivals or warmer countries.

These jollifications were an integral element of seasonal ritual for the

purpose of promoting fertility and conquering the malign forces of evil,

especially at the approach of spring.

The most consistent form of celebration in the old days was the all-

over-town ball game or tug-of-war in which everyone let rip before the

traditional feast, tearing here and tearing there, struggling to get the

ball or rope into their part of the town. It seems that several dozen towns

kept up these ball games until only a few years ago.

E. O. James in his book records instances where the Shrove Tuesday

celebrations became pitched battles between citizens led by the local

church authorities.

Today the only custom that is consistently observed throughout Britain

is pancake eating, though here and there other customs still seem to

survive. Among the latter, Pancake Races, the Pancake Greaze custom and

Ashbournes Shrovetide Football are the best known. Shrovetide is also the

time of Student Rags.


On the 1st of March each year one can see people walking around London

with leeks pinned to their coats. leek is the national emblem of Wales.

The many Welsh people who live in London or in other cities outside Wales

like to show their solidarity on their national day.

The day is actually called Saint Davids Day, after sixth century

abbot who became patron saint of Wales. David is the nearest English

equivalent to the saints name, Dawi.

The saint was known traditionally as the Waterman, which perhaps

means that he and his monks were teetotallers. teetotaller is someone who

drinks n kind of alcohol, but it does not mean that he drinks only tea, as

many people seem to think.

In spite of the leeks mentioned earlier, Saint Davids emblem is not

that, but dove. No one, not even the Welsh, can explain why they took

leek to symbolize their country, but perhaps it was just as well. After

all, they can't pin dove to their coat!


Mothers Day is traditionally observed on the fourth Sunday in Lent

(the Church season of penitence beginning on Ash Wednesday, the day of

which varies from year to year). This is usually in March. The day used to

be known as Mothering Sunday and dates from the time when many girls worked

away from home as domestic servants in big households, where their hours of

work were often very long Mothering Sunday was established as a holyday for

these girls and gave them an

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

opportunity of going home to see their parents, especially their mother.

They used to take presents with them, often given to them by the lady of

the house.

When the labour situation changed and everyone was entitled to regular

time off, this custom remained, although the day is now often called

Mothers Day. People visit their mothers if possible and give them

flowers and small presents. If they cannot go they send a Mothers Day

card, or they may send one in any case. The family try to see that the

mother has as little work to do as possible, sometimes

the husband or children take her breakfast in bed and they often help with

the meals and the washing up. It is considered to be mothers day off.

St. Patricks Day

It is not a national holiday. Its an Irish religious holiday. St.

Patrick is the patron of Ireland. Irish and Irish Americans celebrate the

day. On the day they decorate their houses and streets with green shamrocks

and wear something green. In large cities long parades march through the

streets. Those who arent Irish themselves also wear green neckties and

hair ribbons and take part in the celebration.


During the Easter Holidays the attention of the progressive people in

Great Britain and indeed throughout the world is riveted first and foremost

on the Easter Peace Marches, which took place for the first time in 1958

and have since become traditional. The people who participate in these

marches come from different sections of society. Alongside workers and

students march university professors, doctors, scientists, and engineers.

More often than not the columns are joined by progressive people from


The character of the marches has changed over the years. The high-

point was reached in the early sixties; this was followed by a lapse in

enthusiasm when attendance fell off during the middle and late sixties.

More recent years have seen a rise in the number of people attending the

annual Easter March, as global problems have begun to affect the conscience

of a broader section of the English population.

Londons Easter Parade

London greets the spring, and its early visitors, with a truly

spectacular Easter Parade in Battersea Park on Easter Sunday each year. It

is sponsored by the London Tourist Board and is usually planned around a

central theme related to the history and attractions of London. The great

procession, or parade, begins at 3 p. m., but it is

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

advisable to find a vantage-point well before that hour. The parade

consists of a great many interesting and decorated floats, entered by

various organizations in and outside the metropolis. Some of the finest

bands in the country take part in the parade. At the rear of the parade is

usually the very beautiful Jersey float, created from thousands of lovely

spring blooms and bearing the Easter Princess and her attendants. It is an

afternoon to remember.


April Fools Day or All Fools Day, named from the custom of playing

practical jokes or sending friends on fools errands, on April 1st. Its

timing seems related to the vernal equinox, when nature fools mankind with

sudden changes from showers to sunshine. It is a season when all people,

even the most dignified, are given an excuse to play the fool. In April

comes the cuckoo, emblem of simpletons; hence in Scotland the victim is

called cuckoo or gowk, as in the verse: On the first day of April, Hunt

the gowk another mile. Hunting the gowk was a fruitless errand; so was

hunting for hens teeth, for a square circle or for stirrup oil, the last-

named proving to be several strokes from a leather strap.

May Day in Great Britain

As May 1st is not a public holiday in Great Britain, May Day

celebrations are traditionally held on the Sunday following it, unless, of

course, the 1st of May falls on a Sunday. On May Sunday workers march

through the streets and hold meetings to voice their own demands and the

demands of other progressive forces of the country. The issues involved may

include demands for higher wages and better working conditions, protests

against rising unemployment, demands for a change in the Governments

policy, etc.

May Spring Festival

The 1st of May has also to some extent retained its old significance

that of pagan spring festival. In ancient times it used to be

celebrated with garlands and flowers, dancing and games on the village

green. Maypole was erected a tall pole wreathed with flowers, to which

in later times ribbons were attached and held by the dancers. The girls put

on their best summer frocks, plaited flowers in their hair and round their

waists and eagerly awaited the crowning of the May Queen. The most

beautiful girl was crowned with garland of flowers. After this great

event was dancing, often Morris dancing, with the dancers dressed in

fancy costume, usually

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

representing characters in the Robin Hood legend. May-Day games and sports

were followed by refreshments in the open.

This festival was disliked by the Puritans and suppressed during the

Commonwealth, 1649 60. After the Restoration it was revived but has

gradually almost died out. However, the Queen of May is still chosen in

most counties, and in mn villages school Maypoles are erected around

which the children dance. The famous ceremony of the meeting of the 1st of

May still survives at Oxford, in Magdalen College. At 6 oclock in the

morning the college choir gathers in the upper gallery of the college tower

to greet the coming of the new day with song.


During the month of June, day is set aside as the Queen s official

birthday. This is usually the second Saturday in June. On this day there

takes place on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall the magnificent spectacle

of Trooping the Colour, which begins at about 11.15 . m. (unless rain

intervenes, when the ceremony is usually postponed until conditions are


This is pageantry of rr splendour, with the Queen riding side-saddle

on highly trained horse.

The colours of one of the five regiments of Foot Guards are trooped

before the Sovereign. As she rides on to Horse Guards parade the massed

array of the Brigade of Guards, dressed in ceremonial uniforms, await her


For twenty minutes the whole parade stands rigidly to attention while

being inspected by the Queen. Then comes the Trooping ceremony itself, to

be followed by the famous March Past of the Guards to the music of massed

bands, at which the Queen takes the Salute. The precision drill of the

regiments is notable.

The ceremony ends with the Queen returning to Buckingham Palace at the

head of her Guards.

The Escort to the Colour, chosen normally in strict rotation, then

mounts guard at the Palace.

Midsummer's Day

Midsummer's Day, June 24th, is the longest day of the year. On that

day you can see a very old custom at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England.

Stonehenge is one of Europe's biggest stone circles. A lot of the stones

are ten or twelve metres high. It's also very old. The earliest part of

Stonehenge is nearly 5,000 years old.

But what was Stonehenge? A holy place? A market? Or was it a kind of

calendar? We think the Druids used it for a calendar. The Druids were the

priests in Britain 2,000 years ago. They used the sun and the stones at

Stonehenge to know the

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

start of months and seasons. There are Druids in Britain today, too. And

every June 24th a lot of them go to Stonehenge. On that morning the sun

shines on one famous stone - the Heel stone. For the Druids this is a very

important moment in the year. But for a lot of British people it's just a

strange old custom.


On Bank Holiday the townsfolk usually flock into the country and to

the coast. If the weather is fine many families take picnic-lunch or tea

with them and enjoy their meal in the open. Seaside towns near London, such

as Southend, are invaded by thousands of trippers who come in cars and

coaches, trains, motor cycles and bicycles. Great amusement parks like

Southend Kursaal do roaring trade with their scenic railways, shooting

galleries, water-shoots, Crazy Houses, Hunted Houses and so on. Trippers

will wear comic paper hats with slogans such as Kiss Quick, and they

will eat and drink the weirdest mixture of stuff you can imagine, sea food

like cockles, mussels, whelks, shrimps and fried fish and chips, candy

floss, beer, tea, soft, drinks, everything you can imagine.

Bank Holiday is also an occasion for big sports meetings at places

like the White City Stadium, mainly all kinds of athletics. There are also

horse re meetings all over the country, and most traditional of all,

there are large fairs with swings, roundabouts, coconut shies, Punch and

Judy show, hoop-la stalls and every kind of side-show including, in recent

years, bingo. These fairs are pitched on open spaces of common land, and

the most famous of them is the huge one on Hampstead Heath near London. It

is at Hampstead Heath you will see the Pearly Kings, those Cockney costers

(street traders), who wear suits or frocks with thousands of tiny pearl

buttons stitched all over them, also over their caps and hats, in case of

their Queens. They hold horse and cart parades in which prizes are given

for the smartest turn out. Horses and carts are gaily decorated. Many

Londoners will visit Whipsnade Zoo. There is also much boating activity on

the Thames, regattas at Henley and on other rivers, and the English climate

being what it is, it invariably rains.

Happy Hampstead

August Bank Holiday would not be real holiday for tens of thousands

of Londoners without the Fair on Hampstead Heath!

Those who know London will know were to find the Heath that vast

stretch of open woodland which sprawls across two hills, bounded by Golders

Green and Highgate to the west and east, and by Hampstead itself and Ken

Wood to the south and north.

The site of the fair ground is near to Hampstead Heath station. From

that station to the ground runs broad road which is blocked with solid,


Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

immovable mass of humanity on those days when the fair is open. The walk is

not more than quarter of mile, but it takes an average of half-an hour

to cover it when the crowd is at its thickest.

But being on that road is comfortable compared with what it is like

inside the fair ground itself. there are, hundreds of stalls arranged

in broad avenues inside a huge square bounded by the caravans of the show

people and the lorries containing the generating plants which provide the

stalls with their electricity.

The noise is deafening. Mechanical bands and the cries of the

barkers (the showmen who stand outside the booths and by the stalls

shouting to the crowds to come and try their luck are equalled by the

laughter of the visitors and the din of machinery.

The visitors themselves are looking for fun, and they find it in full

measure. There are fortune-tellers and rifle-ranges and bumping cars,

there are bowling alleys and dart boards and coconut shies. There is

something for everybody.

And for the lucky ones, or for those with more skill than most, there

are prizes table lamps and clocks and hundred and one other things of


visit to the fair at Happy Hampstead is something not easily

forgotten. It is noisy, it is exhausting but it is as exhilarating an

experience as any in the world.



Ladies and gentlemen the Proms!

Amongst music-lovers in Britain and, indeed, in very many other

countries the period between July and September 21 is time of

excitement, of anticipation, of great enthusiasm.

We are in the middle of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts the Proms.

London music-lovers are particularly fortunate, for those who are able

to obtain tickets can attend the concerts in person. Every night at 7

'clock (Sunday excepted) vast audience assembled at the Royal Albert

Hall rises for the playing and singing of the National Anthem. few

minutes later, when seats have been resumed, the first work of the evening


But even if seats are not to be obtained, the important parts of the

concerts can be heard and are heard by very great number of people,

because the broadcasts certain principal works every night throughout

the season. The audience reached by this means is estimated to total

several millions in Britain alone, and that total is probably equalled by

the number of listeners abroad.

The reason why such great audience is attracted is that the Proms

present every year large repertoire of classical works under the best

conductors and with the best artists. season provides an anthology of


Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

The Proms started in 1895 when Sir Henry Wood formed the Queens Hall

Orchestra. The purpose of the venture was to provide classical music to as

many people who cared to come at price all could afford to pay, those of

lesser means being charged comparatively little one shilling to enter

the Promenade, where standing was the rule.

The coming of the last war ended two Proms traditions. The first was

that in 1939 it was n longer possible to perform to London audiences the

whole organization was evacuated to Bristol. The second was that the Proms

couldnt return to the Queens Hall after the war was over the Queens

Hall had become casualty of the air-raids (in 1941), and was gutted.


Halloween means "holy evening" and takes place on October 31st.

Although it is much more important festival in the USA than in Britain,

it is celebrated by many people in the United Kingdom. It is particularly

connected with witches and ghosts.

At parties people dress up in strange costumes and pretend they are

witches. They cut horrible faces in potatoes and other vegetables and put

candle inside, which shines through their eyes. People play different games

such as trying to eat an apple from bucket of water without using their


In recent years children dressed in white sheets knock on doors at

Halloween and ask if you would like trick or treat. If you give them

something nice, treat, they go away. However, if you dont, they play

trick on you, such as making lot of noise or spilling flour on your

front doorstep.


Guy Fawkes Night is one of the most popular festivals in Great

Britain. It commemorates the discovery of the so-called Gunpowder Plot, and

is widely celebrated throughout the country. Below, the reader will find

the necessary information concerning the Plot, which, as he will see, may

never have existed, and the description of the traditional celebrations.

Gunpowder Plot. Conspiracy to destroy the English Houses of Parliament

and King James I when the latter opened Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605.

Engineered by group of Roman Catholics as protest against anti-Papist

measures. In May 1604 the conspirators rented house adjoining the House

of Lords, from which they dug tunnel to vault below that house, where

they stored 36 barrels of gunpowder. It was planned that when king and

parliament were destroyed the Roman Catholics should attempt to seize

power. Preparations for the plot had been completed when, on October 26,

one of the conspirators wrote to kinsman, Lord Monteagle, warning

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

him to stay away from the House of Lords. On November 4 search was made

of the parliament vaults, and the gunpowder was found, together with Guy

Fawkes (1570 1606), an English Roman Catholic in the pay of Spain (which

was making political capital out of Roman Catholics discontent in England).

Fawkes had been commissioned to set off the explosion. Arrested and

tortured he revealed the names of the conspirators, some of whom were

killed resisting arrest. Fawkes was hanged. Detection of the plot led to

increased repression of English Roman Catholics. The Plot is still

commemorated by an official ceremonial search of the vaults before the

annual opening of Parliament, also by the burning of Fawkes's effigy and

the explosion of fireworks every Nov. 5.

Thanksgiving Day

Every year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Families and friends get

together for a big feast. It is a legal holiday in the US. Many people go

to church in the morning and at home they have a big dinner with turkey.

People gather to give the God thanks for all the good things in their


Thanksgiving is the harvest festival. The celebration was held in 1621

after the first harvest in New England. In the end of 1620 the passengers

from the Mayflower landed in America and started settling there. Only half

of the people survived the terrible winter. In spring the Indians gave the

settlers some seeds of Indian corn and the first harvest was very good.

Later, Thanksgiving Days following harvest were celebrated in all the

colonies of New England, but not on the same day. In October 1863 President

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving. In 191, the US Congress

Named fourth Thursday of November a Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day is a

day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with

which Canada has been blessed. Regular annual observance began in 1879.

Since 1957 Thanksgiving Day has been observed on the second Monday in


St. Andrews Day

In some areas, such as Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire,

and Northamptonshire, St Andrew was regarded as the patron saint of lace-

makers and his day was thus kept as a holiday, or tendering feast, by

many in that trade. Thomas Sternberg, describing customs in mid-19th-

century Northampton shire, claims that St Andrews Day Old Style (11

December) was a major festival day in many out of the way villages of the

country: the day is one of unbridled license- a kind of carnival;

village scholars bar out the master, the lace schools are deserted, and

drinking and feasting prevail to a riotous extent. Towards evening the

villagers walk about and masquerade, the women wearing mens dress and the

men wearing female

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

attire, visiting one anothers cottages and drinking hot Elderberry wine,

the chief beverage of the season . In Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, a

future of the day was the making and eating of Tandry Wigs. A strange

belief reported Wright and Lones dedicate that wherever lilies of the

valley grow wild the parish church is usually to St Andrew.


Christmas Day is observed on the 25th of December. In Britain this day

was festival long before the conversion to Christianity. The English

historian the Venerable Bede relates that the ancient peoples of Angli

began the year on the 25th of December, and the very night was called in

their tongue modranecht, that is mothers night. Thus it is not

surprising that many social customs connected with the celebration of

Christmas go back to pagan times, as, for instance, the giving of presents.

Indeed, in 1644 the English puritans forbade the keeping of Christmas by

Act of Parliament, on the grounds that it was heathen festival. At the

Restoration Charles II revived the feast.

Though religion in Britain has been steadily losing ground and

Christmas has practically no religious significance for the majority of the

population of modern Britain, it is still the most widely celebrated

festival in all its parts except Scotland. The reason for this is clear.

With its numerous, often rather quaint social customs, it is undoubtedly

the most colourful holiday of the year, and, moreover one that has always

been, even in the days when most people were practising Christian, time

for eating, drinking and making merry.

However, despite the popularity of Christmas, quite number of

English people dislike this festival, and even those who seem to celebrate

it wholeheartedly, have certain reservations about it. The main reason for

this is that Christmas has become the most commercialized festival of the

year. The customs and traditions connected with Christmas, for example

giving presents and having real spree once year, made it an easy prey

to the retailers, who, using modern methods of advertising, force the

customer to buy what he neither wants nor, often, can reasonably afford.

It is not only children and members of the family that exchange

presents nowadays. Advertising has widened this circle to include not only

friends and distant relations, but also people you work with. An average

English family sends dozens and dozens of Christmas cards, and gives and

receive almost as many often practically useless presents. For people who

are well off this entails no hardship, but it is no small burden for

families with small budgets. Thus saving up for Christmas often starts

months before the festival, and Christmas clubs have become national

institution among the working class and lower-middle class. These are

generally run by shopkeepers and publicans over period of about eight

weeks or longer. Into these the housewives pay each week certain amount

of money for their Christmas bird

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

and joint, their Christmas groceries and so on, the husband as rule

paying into the club run by the local pub, for the drinks.

As much of this spending is forced upon people and often means that

family has to do without things they really need, it inevitably leads to

resentment towards the

festival. Needless to say that it isnt the old customs and traditions that

are to blame, but those who make huge profits out of the nationwide

spending spree which they themselves had boosted beyond any reasonable


The Christmas Pantomime

pantomime is traditional English entertainment at Christmas. It is

meant for children, but adults enjoy just as much. It is very old form of

entertainment, and can be traced back to 16th century Italian comedies.

Harlequin is character from these old comedies.

There have been lot of changes over the years. Singing and dancing

and all kinds of jokes have been added; but the stories which are told are

still fairy tales, with hero, heroine, and villian. Because they are

fairy tales we do not have to ask who will win in the end! The hero always

wins the beautiful princess, the fairy queen it triumphant and the demon

king is defeated. In every pantomime there are always three main

characters. These are the principal boy, the principal girl, and the

dame. The principal boy is the hero and he is always played by girl.

The principal girl is the heroine, who always marries the principal boy in

the end. The dame is comic figure, usually the mother of the principal

boy or girl, and is always played by man.

In addition, you can be sure there will always be good fairy and

bad fairy perhaps an ogre or demon king.

Pantomimes are changing all the time. Every year, someone has new

idea to make them more exciting or more up-to-date. There are pantomimes on

ice, with all the actors skating; pantomimes with well-known pop singer

as the principal boy or girl; or pantomimes with famous comedian from the

English theatre as the dame. But the old stories remain, side by side with

the new ideas.


This is the day when one visits friends, goes for long walk or just

sits around recovering from too much food everything to eat is cold. In

the country there are usually Boxing Day Meets (fox- hunting). In the big

cities and towns tradition on that day demands visit to the pantomime,

where once again one is entertained by the story of Cinderella, Puss in

Boots or whoever it may be the story being protracted

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

and elaborated into as many spectacular scenes as the producer thinks

one can take at sitting.


One of the most important functions of the Citys eighty-four Livery

Companies is the election of London's Lord Mayor at the Guildhall at 12

noon on Michaelmas Day (September 29th). The public are admitted to the

ceremony. It provides one of the many impressive and colourful spectacles

for which London is famed. The reigning Lord r and Sheriffs, carrying

posies, walk in procession to the Guildhall and take their places on the

dais, which is strewn with sweet-smelling herbs. The Recorder announces

that the representatives of the Livery Companies have been called together

to select two Aldermen for the office of Lord r of London. From the

selected two, the Court of Aldermen will choose one. The r, Aldermen

and other senior officials then withdraw, and the Livery select their two

nominations. Usually the choice is unanimous, and the Liverymen all hold up

their hands and shout All!. The Sergeant-at-Arms takes the mace from the

table and, accompanied by the Sheriffs, takes the two names to the Court of

Aldermen, who then proceed to select the Mayor Elect. The bells of the City

ring out as the r and the Mayor Elect leave the Guildhall the state

coach for the Mansion House.

II. Customs, Weddings, Births and Christenings.


In Britain the custom of becoming engaged is still generally retained,

though many young people dispense with it, and the number of such couples

is increasing. As rule, an engagement is announced as soon as girl has

accepted proposal of marriage, but in some cases it is done good time

afterwards. Rules of etiquette dictate that the girls parents should be

the first to hear the news; in practice, however, it is often the couples

friends who are taken into confidence before either of the parents. If

man has not yet met his future in-laws he does so at the first opportunity,

whereas his parents usually write them friendly letter. It is then up to

the girls mother to invite her daughters future in-laws, to meal or

drinks. Quite often, of course, the man has been frequent visitor at the

girls house long before the engagement, and their families are already

well acquainted.

When girl accepts proposal, the man generally gives her ring in

token of the betrothal. It is worn on the third finger of the left hand

before marriage and together with the wedding ring after it. Engagement

rings range from expensive

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

diamond rings to rings with Victorian semi-precious stones costing

only few pounds.

In most cases the engagement itself amounts only to announcements

being made to the parents on both sides and to friends and relations, but

some people arrange an engagement party, and among the better-off people

it is customary to put an announcement in the newspaper.

In the book Etiquette the author writes that as soon as

congratulations and the first gaieties of announcement are over, man

should have talk with the girls father about the date of their wedding,

where they will live, how well off he is and his future plans and

prospects. Nowadays this is often not done, one of the reasons being that

today the young people enjoy greater degree of financial independence

that they used to, to be able to decide these matters for themselves.

However, in working class families, where the family ties are still strong

and each member of the family is more economically dependent upon the rest,

things are rather different. Quite often, particularly in the larger towns,

the couple will have no option but to live after marriage with either the

girls or the mans people. Housing shortage in Britain is still acute, and

the rents are very high. It is extremely difficult to get unfurnished

accommodation, whereas furnished room, which is easier to get, costs

great deal for rent. In any case, the young couple may prefer to live with

the parents in order to have chance to save up for things for their

future home.

But if the young people, particularly those of the higher-paid section

of the population, often make their own decisions concerning the wedding

and their future, the parents, particularly the girls, still play an

important part in the ensuing activities, as we shall see later.

The period of engagement is usually short, three or four months, but

this is entirely matter of choice and circumstances.

The Ceremony

The parents and close relatives of the bride and groom arrive few

minutes before the bride. The bridegroom and his best man should be in

their places at least ten minutes before the service starts. The

bridesmaids and pages wait in the church porch with whoever is to arrange

the brides veil before she goes up the aisle.

The bride, by tradition, arrives couple of minutes late but this

should not be exaggerated. She arrives with whoever is giving her away. The

verger signals to the organist to start playing, and the bride moves up the

aisle with her veil over her face (although many brides do not follow this

custom). She goes in on her fathers right arm, and the bridesmaids follow

her according to the plan at the rehearsal the day before. The bridesmaids

and ushers go to their places in the front pews during the ceremony, except

for the chief bridesmaid who usually stands behind the bride and holds her


Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

After the ceremony the couple go into the vestry to sign the register

with their parents, best man, bridesmaids and perhaps close relation such

as grandmother. The bride throws back her veil or removes the front piece

(if it is removable), the verger gives signal to the organist and the

bride and groom walk down the aisle followed by their parents and those who

have signed the register. The brides mother walks down the aisle on the

left arm of the bridegrooms father and the bridegrooms mother walks down

on the left arm of the brides father (or whoever has given the bride

away). Guests wait until the wedding procession has passed them before

leaving to go on to the reception.

Marriage in Scotland

In Scotland, people over the age of sixteen do not require their

parents consent in order to marry. Marriage is performed by minister of

any religion after the banns have been called on two Sundays in the

districts where the couple have lived for at least fifteen days previously.

Weddings may take place in churches or private houses, and there is no

forbidden time.

Alternatively, the couple may give notice to the registrar of the

district in which they have both lived for fifteen days previously. The

registrar will issue Certificate of Publication which is displayed for

seven days, and it will be valid for three months in any place in Scotland.

Marriage at registry office in Scotland requires publication of

notice for seven days or sheriffs licence, as publication of banns is

not accepted. Such licence is immediately valid but expires after ten

days. One of the parties must have lived in Scotland for at least fifteen

days before the application, which is often prepared by solicitor.

The Reception

The brides parents stand first in the receiving line, followed by the

groom's parents and the bride and groom. Guests line up outside the

reception room and give their names to the major-domo who will announce

them. They need only shake hands and say How do you do? to the parents,

adding perhaps word about how lovely the bride is or how well the

ceremony went. The bride introduces to her husband any friends that he may

not already know, and vice versa.

The important parts of the reception are the cutting of the cake and

the toast to the bride and groom. There should never be any long speeches.

When all the guests have been received, the major-domo requests silence and

the bride cuts the cake, with her husbands hand upon hers.

The toast to the bride and groom is usually proposed by relative or

friend of the bride. may say, M Lords (if any are present), ladies and

gentlemen, I have

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

pleasure in proposing the toast to the bride and bridegroom. should not

make speech full of jokes or silly references to marriage. It should be

short and dignified. The bridegroom replies with few words of thanks.

m or m not then propose the health of the bridesmaids. The best man

replies with few words of thanks. If meal is provided, the toasts will

come at the end of it.

After the toasts the bride and groom m move around the room talking

to their friends until it is time for them to go and change. When they are

ready to leave, guests gather to see them off.

Wedding Presents can be anything, according to your pocket and your

friendship with the bride or groom. Such presents are usually fairly

substantial compared with most other presents, and should preferably be

things useful for future home. Some brides have lists at large store

near their homes. It is always wise to ask if there is one, as this

eliminates your sending something the couple may have already. The list

should contain items of all prices and when one is bought it is crossed

off. wedding is one of the few occasions when money can be given, usually

as cheque. Presents are sent after the invitations have been received,

usually to the brides home. You address the card to both the bride and



When child is born its parents may wish to announce the birth in

national or local newspaper. The announcement may read as follows:

Smith. On February 12th, 1999, at St. 's Hospital, Paddington, to

, wife of James Smith, 15 Blank Terrace, S. W. 3, daughter.

(The, name can be added in brackets.)

The birth must be registered at the local registrar's office within

six weeks in England and Wales and three weeks in Scotland. child is

usually christened in the first six months of its life.

At the christening there is one godmother and two godfathers for boy

and vice versa for girl (but no godparents are necessary at Church of

Scotland christening). The godmother always holds the baby during the

ceremony and gives it to the clergyman just before he baptizes it. She

makes the responses during the ceremony and tells the clergyman the names

when asked. The true role of godparents is to watch over the spiritual

welfare of their godchildren until confirmation, or at least to show

interest in them throughout their childhood.

Usually, but by no means always, the friends and relatives give

christening present. Traditionally, the godparents give silver cup, which

is probably going to be far more useful if it is beer mug! Other presents

should preferably be something

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

intended to last lifetime, such as leather-bound bible or poetry book,

silver spoon or crystal and silver scent bottle.

Sunday in England

For many English families Sunday begins with the by now traditional

lie-in, when, instead of getting up at 7.30 or at 8 'clock, as during

the rest of the week, most people stay in bed for at least another hour.

And there are many younger opl Saturday night revellers in particular

who never see the light of day before midday: what is usually referred to

as getting up at the crack of noon.

Church bells are another typical feature of an English Sunday morning,

although by many their summons remains unanswered, especially by those in

need of physical rather than spiritual comfort. But whether people get out

of bed for morning service or not, their first meaningful contact with the

world beyond the four walls of their bedroom will be the delicious aroma of

bacon and eggs being fried by mother downstairs in the kitchen. This smell

is for most people s much part of Sunday mornings that they would not be

the same without it.

During the mid-morning most people indulge in some fairly light

activity such as gardening, washing the , shelling peas or chopping mint

for Sunday lunch, or taking the dog for walk. Another most popular pre-

lunch activity consists of visit to pub either walk to the

ll, or often nowadays drive to more pleasant country pub if one

lives in built-up area. It is unusual for anyone t drink lot during

lunchtime session, the idea being to have quiet drink and chat,

perhaps discussing the previous evenings entertainment or afternoons

sport. One additional attraction of Sunday lunchtime drinks is that most

men go to the pub alone, that is to say without their wives or girlfriends,

who generally prefer to stay at home and prepare the lunch.

Sunday has always been favourite day for inviting people friends,

relations, colleagues to afternoon tea, and there are n signs that this

custom is losing popularity


In recent years television has become increasingly popular, and Sunday

evening is now regarded as the peak viewing period of the week.

Concerning the differences between typically English Sunday and

Sunday on the Continent, there are still many forms of entertainment which

visitor from Europe would be surprised to find missing on Sundays in

England. Professional sport, for example, was for many years forbidden on

Sundays, and although the restrictions have been relaxed in recent years,

it is still difficult to find any large sporting fixture taking place on

Sundays. This is in marked contrast to the situation in most European

countries where Sunday afternoon is the most popular time for so-called

spectator sports football, horse-racing and, in Spain of course,


Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

On the Continent museums and art galleries also attract large numbers

of visitors on Sundays, whereas in England it is only in recent times that

such places as the National Portrait Gallery and The Tate have been open

on such days at present between 2 . m. and 6 . m. One of the most

popular attractions in London on Sunday afternoons, especially in summer,

is the Tower, although this too was closed for many years on Sundays.


In English homes, the fireplace has always been, until recent times,

the natural centre of interest in room. People may like to sit at

window on summer day, but for many months of the year they prefer to sit

round the fire and watch the dancing flames.

In the Middle Ages the fireplaces in the halls of large castles were

very wide. Only wood was burnt, and large logs were carted in from the

forests, and supported as they burnt, on metal bars. Such wide fireplaces

may still be seen in old inns, and in some of them there are even seats

inside the fireplace.

Elizabethan fireplaces often had carved stone or woodwork over the

fireplace, reaching to the ceiling. There were sometimes columns on each

side of the fireplace.

In the 18th century, space was often provided over the fireplace for

painting or mirror.

When coal fires became common, fireplaces became much smaller. Grates

were used to hold the coal. Above the fireplace there was usually shelf

on which there was often clock, and perhaps framed photographs.


Dancing is popular, and the numerous large and opulent-looking public

dance-halls are an important element in the folklore and courtship

procedures of all but the upper and middle classes. They manage to survive

against the competition of the more modern, smaller, noisier discotheques.

They are strictly places for dancing, with good floors and good bands, but

often no tables for people to sit at when they are not actually dancing,

only rows of chairs round the walls. They are visited mainly by young

unmarried people. Girls tend to go in groups of two or three, friends from

the same street or the same or office, relying much on each others

support as they go in; the young men sometimes go in groups too, but often

alone. All the girls tend to congregate together between dances, and the

young men similarly. At the beginning of each dance man chooses girl

from the mass, and will ask the same girl to dance with him again if he

finds her company agreeable, but the girl may refuse. Most of the dancers

go home as they come but not quite at all. If couple like one another

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

the young man may offer an invitation to go to cinema on some future

night, and this invitation may be succeeded by others. After several r-

arranged meetings

couple may regard themselves as going steady together though for long

time they will meet only in public places, and an invitation home implies

great admiration. Young people are thoroughly emancipated, and find it easy

enough to meet each other.


Many British costumes and uniforms have a long history. One is the

uniform of the Beefeaters at the Tower of London. This came first from

France. Another is the uniform of the Horse Guards at Horse Guards' Parade,

not far from Buckingham Palace. Thousands of visitors take photographs of

the Horse Guards, but the Guards never move or smile. In fact some visitors

think the Guards aren't real. And that brings us to...Britannia. She wears

traditional clothes, too. But shes not a real person. She is symbol of


Lots of ordinary clothes have a long tradition. The famous bowler

hat, for example. A man called Beaulieu made the first one in 1850.

The very cold winters in the Crimea in the war of 1853-56 gave us

the names of the cardigan and the balaclava. Lord Cardigan led the Light

Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava (1854). A "cardigan" is now a warm

woollen short coat with buttons, and a "balaclava" is a woollen hat.

Another British soldier, Wellington, gave his name to a pair of boots. They

have a shorter name today - "Wellies" raced on the river Thames and the

Oxford boat won. That started a tradition. Now, every Spring, the

University Boat Race goes from Putney to Mort lake on the Thames. That's

6.7 kilometres. The Cambridge rowers wear light blue shirts and the Oxford

rowers wear dark blue. There are eight men in each boat. There's also a

"cox". The cox controls the boat. Traditionally coxes are men, but Susan

Brown became the first woman cox in 1981. She was the cox for Oxford and

they won.


At the end of the 9th form my classmates and I were given a very

interesting task for the examination: to write the reports on different

themes. I introduced with all of them very carefully and choose one that I

like more then others. The theme of my report is Holidays and Traditions

in English- Speaking Countries. I was eager to work with the material on

this theme because its really interesting and exciting for me to know more

about the customs and traditions that came to peoples life many hundreds

years ago. Im also interested in their everyday way of life and I can get

something for myself. I worked hard and did my best to deal with different

kinds of information and literature to make my report differ from the

reports of my classmates. I tried to explain everything with simple phrases

to make my listeners and readers be satisfied with my work. I wish

everybody could get a lot of new information about customs and traditions

of many civilized countries and may be hold them in future too. I hope that

my report will be interesting for everybody.


I feel proud of myself because I did my best to cope with this work

and I hope that I did it quiet well. In my report I tried to show the life

of different nations, which live in English speaking countries. I wrote

about their customs, traditions and holidays, about their costumes and

clothes. It was very interesting to look for the information for my



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