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HOLIDAYS AND TRADITIONS IN GREAT BRITAIN
The most popular holiday in Great Britain is Christmas. Every year the people of Norway present the city of London with a big tree. Then it stands in Trafalgar Square. All the streets are beautifully decorated.
Before Christmas, children and some singers go from house to house. They sing carols, traditional Christmas songs. Very often they collect money for charity. At home a lot of children hang stockings at the end of their beds; they believe that Father Christmas will come down the chimney during the night and fill the stockings with toys and sweets. Christmas is a family holiday. Relatives usually meet for the big Christmas dinner with turkey and Christmas pudding. Everyone gives and receives presents.
On Christmas Eve it is very important to give much food to the cattle or at least to your dog or cat. It will mean that not only they but you too will have enough food in the coming year. Most Christmas and New Year's food superstitions depend on having some kind of food that swells up when cooked. If you eat food that has swelled up, your pocket-book will swell up all year.
People decorate their houses with mistletoe and kiss under this decoration at midnight - it will bring good luck and loyal love to the family! Holly used for Christmas decorations should be saved to keep the house from lightning.
The 26th of December, Boxing Day, is an extra holiday after Christmas Day. This is the time to visit relatives or friends. If you want you may certainly sit at home and watch TV.
New Year's Day is less popular in Britain than Christmas. But in Scotland it is the biggest festival of the year. Almost all the shops and factories are closed in Scotland on New Year's Day and people enjoy themselves.
There are some other public holidays in Britain: Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Spring Bank Holiday and Summer Bank Holiday. Public holidays in Britain are called bank holidays, because the banks as well as a lot of offices and shops are closed.
Besides public holidays there are some special festivals in Great Britain. Some of them have originated from ancient times. On the 5th of November, in 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I. He didn't succeed. Guy Fawkes was taken to the Tower of London and the King's men cut off his head. Since that day the British celebrate the 5th of November. They make a dummy, made of straw and old clothes. This dummy is called a "guy", because Fawkes' name was Guy. Children can be seen in the streets saying, "Penny for the guy." Then they buy fireworks and let them off.
Some ceremonies are rather formal, such as the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the State Opening of Parliament.
In the streets of London one can see a group of horsemen wearing shining helmets, red uniforms, black boots and long white gloves. These men are Life Guards. Their duty is to guard the king or the queen of Great Britain and the most important guests of the country.
Every year a large number of ancient motor-cars drive from London to Brighton, sixty miles away from the capital. Some of these cars are very funny. This competition is a colorful demonstration. Drivers are dressed in the clothes of those times. It is not a typical race, as most of the cars come to Brighton only in the evening or don't come at all.
In Britain traditions play a more important part in the life of the people than in other countries. Foreigners can be struck by the number of customs and peculiarities in English life. Englishmen are proud of their traditions and carefully follow them.