Halloween means “holy evening”, and takes place on 31st
October. It was begun by the Celts over 2000 years ago.
People believed that ghosts and witches came out on that
night. These beliefs were not encouraged by the church,
but the festival wasn’t abandoned. The Irish lit lanterns
and candles to keep the ghosts away and wore costumes
and masks to frighten them. People travelled from village
to village and asked for food. They believed that any
village that didn’t give food would have bad luck.
These customs were
brought to the USA in
the nineteenth century
by Irish immigrants.
Although it is much
more important festival
in the United States
than in Britain, it is
celebrated by many
people in the UK. It is
with witches and
At parties people dress up in
strange costumes and pretend
they are witches. Children
dressed in white sheets knock
on doors at Halloween and ask
if you would like a ‘trick’ or a
‘treat’ (проказа или
угощение). If you give them
something nice, a ‘treat’, they
go away. However, if you
don’t, they play a ‘trick’ on
you, such as making a lot of
noise or spilling flour on your
In 1605 King James I was on the throne. As a Protestant, he was very
unpopular with Roman Catholics. Some of them planned to blow up the
Houses of Parliament on the 5th November of that year, when the King was
going to open Parliament. Under the House of Lords they stored thirty– six
barrels of gunpowder, which were to be exploded by a man called Guy
Fawkes. However, one of the plotters spoke about these plans and Fawkes
was arrested and later hanged.
GUY FAWKES’ NIGHT.
Since that day the English
traditionally celebrate 5th
November by burning a dummy,
made of straw and old clothes, on a
bonfire, at the same time letting of
fireworks. This dummy is called a
‘guy’ (like Guy Fawkes).
Christmas is the most important
festival of the year, it combines
the Christian celebration of the
birth of Christ with the traditional
festivities of winter.
Christmas is a very special time
for all families in the world. This is
a time for having fun, for sending
and receiving Christmas cards,
for family gatherings.
There are a lot of traditions
connected with Christmas but
perhaps the most important one
is the giving of presents. Family
members wrap up their gifts and
leave them under the Christmas
tree to be found on Christmas
. Children leave a long
stocking at the end of their
beds on Christmas Eve, 24th
December, hoping that Father
Christmas will come down the
chimney during the night and
bring them small presents, fruit
and nuts. At some time on
Christmas Day the family will
sit down to a big turkey dinner
followed by Christmas
pudding. They will probably
pull a cracker. It will make a
loud crack and a coloured hat
or a small toy will fall out.
Later in the afternoon
they may watch the
Queen's speech on
television and enjoy a
piece of Christmas
cake or eat a hot
mince pie. 26th
December is also a
public holiday, Boxing
Day, and this is the
time to visit friends and
In Britain Boxing Day is celebrated on the
following day after Christmas Day, which is
Boxing Day is a public holiday. It means that
it is a typically a non working day in the
Traditionally 26th December was the day to
open the Christmas box to share the
contents with the poor.
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 visitotrs to
your home on 31st
It was believed that the first person to visit one’s
house on New Year’s Day could bring good or
Usually a dark – complexioned man was chosen,
and never a woman, for she would bring bad
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. In parts of northern England this pleasing
custom is still observed.
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
St. Valentine’s Day has roots in several different legends that have
found their way to us through the ages.
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 tell s us that this same Valentine, well-loved by all,
wrote notes from his jail cell to children and friends who missed him.
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
St. Valentine’s Day is now a day for
sweethearts. It is the day that you
show your friend or loved one that you
care. You can send candy to someone
you think is special. Or you can send
roses, the flower of love. Most people
send “valentines,” a greeting card named
after the notes that St. Valentine
wrote from jail.
There are many other traditions and superstitions associated with
romance activities on Valentine's day including:
the first man an unmarried woman saw on 14th February would be
her future husband;
if the names of all a girl's suitors were written on paper and
wrapped in clay and the clay put into water, the piece that rose to
the surface first would contain the name of her husband-to-be.
if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it
meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would
marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she
would marry a rich person.
In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl
to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names
on their sleeves for one week.
In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on
February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favourite decorations
on the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"
Imagine you are in a medium – sized English
town. The market place is full of noise. You
hear the sound of music, at least one
accordion, a drum, tin whistle and fiddle. As
you come closer you see an interesting sight.
There are some men
dressed in white clothes but
decorated in the strangest
way with bright ribbons,
flowers and small bells.
They dance, leaping into
the air, stamping their feet,
and perform the most
complicated pattern of
movements. They perform a
morris dance and what they
are doing is anything up to
eight hundred years old.
SHROVE TUESDAY (PANCAKE DAY)
The name Shrove comes from the old word ‘shrive’
which means to confess. In Middle Ages people used
to confess their sins so that they were forgiven
before the season of Lent began. They took their last
opportunity to eat up all the rich foods prohibited
during Lent. Thus all eggs, butter and fat remaining
in the house were made into pancakes, hence the
festival’s usual nickname of Pancake Day.
In the UK, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake
Day because it is the day of the year when almost
everybody eats pancakes.
Although the Christian religion gave the world Easter as
we know it today, the celebration owes its name and
many of its customs and symbols to a pagan festival
called Eostre. Eostre, the Anglo – Saxon goddess of
springtime and sunrise, got its name from the word east,
where the sun rises.
Many modern Easter
symbols come from pagan
times. The egg, for example,
was a fertility symbol long
before the Christian era. In
Christian times the egg took
on a new meaning
symbolizing the tomb from
which Christ rose. The
ancient custom of dyeing
eggs at Easter is still very
The Easter bunny is also
originated in pre –
Christian fertility lore.
The rabbit was the most
fertile animal out
ancestors knew, so they
selected it as a symbol of
new life. Today, children
enjoy eating candy
bunnies and listening to
stories about the Easter
bunny, who brings Easter
eggs in a fancy basket.
Wales has always been known as a country of music and
Since the 12th century they have records of an annual
competition (or Eisteddfod [ais'teSvad] in Welsh), which
was held to find the best poets, writers and musicians in
the country. Originally only professionals took part, but
now the Eisteddfod is open to the public and, because all
the events are in Welsh, it encourages a strong interest in
the Welsh arts.
The Eisteddfod now includes local crafts, orchestral and brass
band contests and even ambulance work! Many local
communities organize their own Eisteddfod.
An International Eisteddfod (the international festival of folk-
dancing and music) began in 1946, and no one expected much
foreign interest. In fact fourteen countries took part.
Nowadays, the International Eisteddfod takes place in the second week of
July at Llangollen [laen'goBlan] (this town is in North Wales). People from
over thirty countries come to compete in choral singing, folk-singing and
folk-dancing, and the little valley is full of thousands of visitors coming to
listen and watch.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
В.В Ощепкова, И.И. Шустилова. Britain in Brief. Новая школа,
If you want to know about another unusual British traditions and
customs, visit this site http://projectbritain.com/curious/calendar.htm