Customs and traditions of Great Britain
To begin with I’d like to comment on the definition of the term a custom. According to the dictionary it is «…an activity, a way of behaving, or an event which is usual or traditional in a particular society or in particular circumstances». What is a tradition? It is a custom, opinion or belief handed down from one generation to another, often orally or by practice. In fact, British customs and traditions is a question of great significance for British people. They are known as strict followers of traditions.
Britain is full of culture and traditions which have been around for hundreds of years. British customs and traditions are famous all over the world. When people think of Britain they often think of people drinking tea, eating fish and chips and wearing bowler hats, but there is more to Britain than just those things. They have English and British traditions of sport, music, food and many royal occasions. There are also songs, sayings and superstitions. The English are reputed to be cold and reserved. In reality they are often steady, easy-going and fond of sport.
The British people are proud of their customs and traditions. Foreigners coming to England have a feeling of surprise at a number of customs and peculiarities in English life. I mean some formal ceremonies such as the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Trooping the Colour, the State opening of Parliament etc.
The UK consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Inhabitants of all these parts have a lot of differences. For example, the Scots are not English. The Scots are more extravagant, their traditions are more colourful and exciting. The Gaelic language and songs, the tartan, the bagpipes are completely Scottish.
The Welsh still wear proudly their national dress on holidays. The Welsh language is still very much a living force and is taught side by side with English at schools. The national Welsh Eisteddfod is unforgettable. It is held in the first week of August.
But there are some things that unite them all together. One of them is gardening. Britain is also a nation of animal lovers. Every family has a pet, which is paid much attention to.
From my point of view wedding customs and traditions of Great Britain are impressive. Have you ever watched the British comedy called “Four Weddings and a Funeral” staring Hugh Grant and Andy MacDowell? I think no one throws a wedding like the British! Lots of traditions, inordinate amount of flowers, lots of people, extravagant hats, beautiful old churches, and great old castles. In the U.K. the bride holds a “Hen Party” the night before and the groom reunites with his friends who cheer his good luck with a “Stag Party”. A Traditional English wedding cake is a “fruit cake”, usually made of raisins, almonds, cherries and marzipan. The top layer of the wedding cake is called the “christening cake” which the couple saves for the christening of their first child.
These are just a few English superstitions. For example a glance in the mirror before the fully dressed bride leaves for her wedding is considered good luck, but should she return and look again, this is considered bad luck!
I know much about traditional British holidays such as St. George's Day, St. Andrew's Day, St. Patrick's Day, St. David's Day, St. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, New Year's Day, Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Boxing Day, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, Spring Bank Holiday and Summer Bank Holiday etc.
England’s national day is St. George’s Day (23 April ) St. George is the patron saint of England.
In Britain, Christmas Day is regarded as a celebration of the family. Preparations start in advance, with the sending of Christmas cards and installation of a decorated Christmas tree in a prominent place in the home. Relatives usually meet for the familial Christmas dinner with turkey and bread sauce. Presents are bought and wrapped, and traditionally placed under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Christmas is both a secular and a religious holiday, and many families like to attend a midnight service at church on Christmas Eve, or celebrate Christmas in church on Christmas morning.
Boxing Day (December, 26th) is so-called because it’s a time when trades people receive a ‘Christmas Box’ - some money in appreciation of the work they’ve carried out all year. The day is a public holiday, so shops and banks are closed. More recently, some shops have broken with tradition and now open on Boxing Day to encourage shoppers who can’t wait to spend their Christmas money!
New Year is often launched with a party - either at home with family and friends or a gathering in the local pubs and clubs.
Halloween (October, 31th) and its associations with witches and ghosts derives from the Celtic Old Year’s Night - the night of all witches, when spirits were said to walk the earth.
Easter day is named after the Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, whose feast took place at the spring equinox. Easter is now the spring feast of the Christian church, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. It falls on a Sunday between March, 22th and April, 25th, according to the church calendar. Traditionally Easter eggs, dyed and decorated or made of chocolate, are given as presents symbolizing new life and the coming of spring.
Pancake Day or ‘Shrove Tuesday’ (the Tuesday which falls 41 days before Easter) is the eve of the Lenten fast.
In 1605 Guy Fawkes, a Roman Catholic, and his fellow conspirators attempted to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament, as they disagreed with the King’s Protestant policies.In the days leading up to the 5th of November children traditionally take their home-made Guys out onto the streets of their town or village and ask passers-by for ‘a penny for the Guy’. This money is supposedly used as a contribution towards their fireworks.
The poppy is traditionally worn on Remembrance Day. By tradition, at 11.00 am on Remembrance Sunday a two minute silence is observed at the Cenotaph and elsewhere in the country to honour those who lost their lives.
The national flower of England is the rose. The flower has been adopted as England’s emblem since the time of the Wars of the Roses - civil wars (1455-1485) between the royal house of Lancaster (whose emblem was a red rose) and the royal house of York (whose emblem was a white rose).
And to finish with I’d like to say a few words about superstitions in Britain. The number 13 is said to be unlucky for some, and when the 13th day of the month falls on a Friday, anyone wishing to avoid an inauspicious event had better stay indoors.