Customs and traditions of Great Britain
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 all over the world: bowler hats, tea and talking about the wether.
Englishmen have many traditional holidays, such as Christmas, St. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Easter and others.
Britain is full of customs and traditions. A lot of them have very long histories. Some are funny and some are strange. But they are all interesting. There is the long menu of traditional British food. There are many royal occasions. There are songs, saying and superstitions. They are all part of the British way of life.
We can classify English traditions into several groups: traditions concerning the Englishmen's private life (child's birth, wedding, marriage, wedding anniversary), which are connected with families incomes; state traditions; national holidays, religious holidays, public festival, traditional ceremonies.
Here are some of them.
It is certain that Christmas is celebrated all over the world. Perhaps no other holiday has developed a set of customs and symbols. This is the day when many people are travelling home to be with their famillies on Christmas Day, 25th December. The Christmas story comes from bible. An angel appeared to shepherds and told them that a Savior had been born to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem. Three Wise Men from the East followed a wondrous star which led them to the baby Jesus to whome they paid homage and presented gifts of gold, frankicense and myrrh. To people all over the world, Christmas is a season of giving and receiving presents. In Scandinavian and other European countries, Father Christmas, or Saint Nicholas, comes into house at night and leaves gifts for the children. Saint Nicholas is represented as a fidly man with a red cloak and long white beard. He visited house and left giftes, dringing people happiness in the coldest months of the year. Another character, the Norse God Odin, rode on a magical flying horse across the ages to make the present day Santa Claus.
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-coloured paper or holly, and they usually have a Christmas tree in the corner or the front foom, glittering with coloured lights and decorations. The Christmas tree was popularized by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who introduced one to the Royal Household in 1840. Since 1947, the country of Norway has presented Britain annually with a large Christmas tree which stands in Trafalgar Square in commemoration of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during the Second World War.
There are a lot of traditions connected with Christmas but perhaps the most important one is the giving of present. Familly 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 disappointe! At some time on Christmas Day the familly will 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 weeks 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.
The pulling of Christmas crackers often accompanies food on Christmas Day. Invented by a London baker in 1846, a cracker is a brightly colored paper tube, twisted at both ends, which contains a party hat, riddle and toy or other trinket. When it is pulled by two people it gives out a crack as its contents are dispersed.
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.
At midnight on 31th December throughout Great Britain people celebrate the coming of the New Year, by holding hands in a large circle and singing the song:
Should auld acquaintance be forget,And never brought to mind?Should auld acquaintance be forget?And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,For auld lang syne,We'll take a cup of kindness yet,For auld lang syne!..
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' 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.
St. 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 of loved 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. Americans of all ages as other people in different countries love to send and receive valentines. Handmade valentines, created by cutting hearts out of coloured 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. In elementary schools, children make valentines, they have a small party with refreshments. You can right a short rhyme inside the heart:
There are gold shipsAnd silver ships,But no shipsLike friendship.
Valentine cards are usually decorated with symbols of love and friendship. These symbols were devised many centuries ago. Lace symbolises a net for catching one's heart. If you get a Valentine with a piece of a lace you may understand that the person who sent it must be crazy about you. A symbol should have several meanings, so some experts maintain that lace stands for a bridal veil. A ribbon means that the person is tired up, while hearts, which are the most common romantic symbol, denote eternal love. Red roses are also often used as a love emblem. Valentine's Day grows more and more popular in many countries of the world. Some people have already begun to celebrate it in Russia. They try to imitate European Valentine customs and want to known more about their origin. St. Valentine's Day is the day when boys and girls. Friends and neighbours, husbands and wives, sweethearts and lovers exchange greeting of love and affection. It is the day to share one's loving feelings with friends and family, but it is young men and girls who usually wait it with impatience. This day has become traditional for many couples to become engaged. That makes young people acknowledge St. Valentine's as the great friend and patron of lovers.