NEW YEAR IN ENGLAND
In England the New Year is not as widely observed as Christmas. Some people ignore it. Many others do celebrate the New Year. The most common type of celebration is a New Year party. It begins at 8 pm and goes on until morning. There is a buffet supper of cold meat, pies, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits. At midnight everyone can hear the chimes of Big Ben and drink a toast to the New Year. Then the party goes on.
Another way of celebrating is to go to a New Year's dance. Dance halls are decorated and there are several bands playing merry music.
The most famous celebration is in London round the statue in Piccadilly Circus where crowds welcome the New Year. In Trafalgar Square someone usually falls into the fountain.
Some people watch others celebrating on television. There are no traditional English New Year festivities, and television producers show Scottish ones.
Some people send New Year cards and give presents and make "New Year resolutions".
On New Year's Day the "New Year Honours List " is published in the newspapers of those who are to be given knighthoods, etc.
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
Saint Valentine's Day is observed on February 14. The first Valentine of all was a bishop, who before he was put to death by the Romans sent a note of friendship to his jailer's blind daughter. Roman soldiers had no right to get married. Valentine wed them secretly and for this he was sentenced. February 14 is the date of an old pagan festival when Roman maidens put love letters into an urn to be drawn out by their boy friends.
In England Easter is a time for the giving and receiving of presents /Easter eggs/, for the Easter Bonnet Parade and hot cross buns. Nowadays Easter eggs are made of chocolate but painting egg-shells is still popular in some country districts. Emblems of Easter are also fluffy chicks, baby rabbits, daffodils, catkins, and lily. They signify the Nature's reawakening.
London greets the spring with Easter Parade on Easter Sunday. The parade begins at 3 p.m. It consists of many decorated floats bearing the Easter Princess and her attendants. The finest bands take part in the parade.
LATE SUMMER BANK HOLIDAY
On Bank Holiday the town folk usuallyflock into the country and to the coast. They take a picnic-lunch and enjoy their meal in the open. Seaside towns near London are invaded by thousands of holiday-makers.
Bank holidays is also an occasion for big sports meeting. There are large fairs, a Punch arid Judy show, and bingo. Many Londoners will visit Whipsnade Zoo. There is also much boat activity on the Thames and other rivers.
Christmas Day is observed on December 25. In Britain this day was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity. On that day people began the year and it was called "modranecht" - mother's night, Many Christmas customs go back to pagan times. In 1644 the English puritans forbade the keeping of Christmas by Act of Parliament. At the restoration Charles II revived the feast in 1660.
On Christmas Eve everything is rush. Offices close at one o'clock, but the shops stay open late. London and big cities are decorated with coloured lights. In the homes there is a great air of expectation. The children are decorating the Christmas tree with baubles and coloured lights. The house is decorated with holly and mistletoe under which the boys kiss the girls. Christmas cards are hung round the walls.
The housewife is busy in the kitchen. The Christmas bird, usually a turkey, is being prepared. The pudding is inspected and the cake is iced.
In villages carol-singers come and sing Christmas carols. They expect a Christmas box for their musical efforts. The money collected is then donated to some deserving cause.
Boxing Day is observed on December 26. It is a legal holiday in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Scotland observes Boxing Day on January 12. Christmas boxes /tips/ are traditionally given to dustmen and a few other public servants.
This is the day when one visits friends. Tradition demands a visit to the pantomime to watch the story of Cinderella, Dick Whittington or whatever it may be. There are pantomimes on ice, with a well-known pop singers or pantomimes with a famous comedian.
In the country there are usually Boxing Day Meets for fox-hunting.