Every nation and every country has its own traditions and customs. Traditions make a nation special. Some of them are old-fashioned and many people remember them, others are part of people’s life. Some British customs and traditions are known the entire world.
Bowler hats, tea and talking about the weather, for example. From Scotland to Cornwall, the United Kingdom is full of customs and traditions. Here are some of them.
Saint Valentine’s Day
St. Valentine's Day roots in several different legends that have found their way to us through the ages. One of the earliest popular symbols of the day is Cupid, the Roman god of Love who is represented by the image of a young boy with bow and arrow. Three hundred years after the death of Jesus Christ, the Roman emperors still demanded that everyone believe in the Roman gods. Valentine, a Christian priest, had been thrown in prison for his teachings. On February 14, Valentine was beheaded, not only because he was a Christian, but also because he had performed a miracle. He supposedly cured the jailer's daughter of her blindness.
The night before he was executed, he wrote the jailer's daughter a farewell letter, signing it, "from Your Valentine". Another legend tells us that this same Valentine, well-loved by all, wrote notes from his jail cell to children and friends who missed him. Whatever the odd mixture of origins, St. Valentine's Day is now a day for sweethearts. It is the day that you show your friend or beloved one that you care. You can send candy to someone you think is special. Or you can send "valentines" a greeting card named after the notes that St. Valentine wrote from jail. Valentines can be sentimental, romantic, and heartfelt. They can be funny and friendly. If the sender is shy, valentines can be anonymous. Handmade valentines, created by cutting hearts out of colored paper, show that a lot of thought was put into making them personal. Valentines can be heart-shaped, or have hearts, the symbol of love, on them.
Guy Fawkes Night
For the British people, November 5th calls to remind one man, Guy Fawkes. It is a date that people remember long after their school day history lessons. There is even a popular verse about it: “Remember, remember the Fifth of November; Gunpowder, Treason and Plot”. Guy Fawkes was one of the group of conspirators who planned to blow up the House of Lords while the King and the Lords were gathered there for opening the Parliament on November 5th, 1605.
Guy Fawkes was discovered in a cellar full of barrels of gunpowder under the Parliament building. The cellars were searched and he was arrested. He and some of the conspirators were executed. The cellars of the House of Parliament are still searched every day by in a special ceremony by the Guards wearing the special uniform.
Every year November 5th is commemorated in gardens and parks with fireworks and bonfires. Children make guys – figures representing Guy Fawkes – out of old clothes stuffed with straw and masks and burn them on the bonfires.
For most British families, this is the most important festival of the year; it combines the Christian celebration or the birth of Christ with the traditional festivities of winter. On the Sunday before Christmas many churches hold a carol service where special hymns are sung. Sometimes carol-singers can be heard on the streets as they collect money for charity. Most families decorate their houses with brightly-colored paper or holly, and they usually have a Christmas tree in the corner or the front room, glittering with colored lights and decorations. There are a lot of traditions connected with Christmas but perhaps the most important one is the giving of present. Family members wrap up their gifts and leave them bottom of the Christmas tree to be found on Christmas morning. Children leave sock or stocking at the end of their beds on Christmas Eve, 24th of December, hoping that Father Christmas will come down the chimney during the night and bring them small presents, fruit and nuts. They are usually not disappointed! At some time on Christmas Day the family sit down to a big turkey dinner followed by Christmas pudding. Christmas dinner consists traditionally of a roast turkey, goose or chicken with stuffing and roast potatoes. Mince pies and Christmas pudding flaming with brandy, which might contain coins or lucky charms for children, follow this. (The pudding is usually prepared beforehand and is customarily stirred by each member of the family as a wish is made.). Later in the day, a Christmas cake may be served - a rich baked fruitcake with marzipan, icing and sugar frosting.
26th December is also a public holiday, Boxing Day, which takes its name from a former custom of giving a Christmas Box - a gift of money or food inside a box - to the deliverymen and trades people who called regularly during the year. This tradition survives in the custom of tipping the milkman, postman, dustmen and other callers of good service at Christmas time. This is the time to visit friends and relatives or watch football.
New Year's Eve is a more important festival in Scotland than it is in England, and it even has a special name. It is not clear where the word 'Hogmanay' (First Footing) comes from, but it is connected with the provision of food and drink for all visitors to your home on 31th December. It was believed that the first person to visit one's house on New Year's Day could bring good or bad luck. Therefore, people tried to arrange for the person or their own choice to be standing outside their houses ready to be let in the moment midnight had come. Usually a dark-complexioned man was chosen, and never a woman, for she would bring bad luck. The first footer was required to carry three articles: a piece of coal to wish warmth, a piece of bread to wish food, and a silver coin to wish wealth.
There are also ‘bank holidays’ (official days off) in Great Britain, such as Good Friday, Easter Monday, May day, Spring and Summer Bank Holidays, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Only when the UK joined the EEC the New Year’s Day became a public holiday.