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. Holidays and traditions in english-speaking countries






Holidays and traditions in english-speaking countries

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

I. Britain round the calendar.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS

There are only six public holidays a year in Great Britain, that is

days on which people need not go in to work. They are: Christmas Day,

Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Spring Bank Holiday and Late Summer

Bank Holiday. In Scotland, the New Years Day is also a public holiday.

Most of these holidays are of religious origin, though it would be right to

say that for the greater part of the population they have long lost their

religious significance and are simply days on which people relax, eat,

drink and make merry. All the public holidays, except Christmas Day and

Boxing Day observed on December 25th and 26th respectively, are movable,

that is they do not fall on the same day each year. Good Friday and Easter

Monday depend on Easter Sunday which falls on the first Sunday after a full

moon on or after March 21st. the Spring Bank Holiday falls on the last

Monday of May or on the first Monday of June, while the Late Summer Bank

Holiday comes on the last Monday in August or on the first Monday in

September, depending on which of the Mondays is nearer to June 1st and

September 1st respectively.

Besides public holidays, there are other festivals, anniversaries and

simply days, for example Pancake Day and Bonfire Night, on which certain

traditions are observed, but unless they fall on a Sunday, they are

ordinary working days.

NEW YEAR

In England the New Year is not as widely or as enthusiastically

observed as Christmas. Some people ignore it completely and go to bed at

the same time as usual on New Years Eve. Many others, however, do

celebration it in one way or another, the type of celebration varying very

much according to the local custom, family traditions and personal taste.

The most common type of celebration is a New Year party, either a

family party or one arranged by a group of young people. This usually

begins at about eight oclock and goes on until the early hours of the

morning. There is a lot of drinking, mainly beer, wine, gin and whisky;

sometimes the hosts make a big bowl of punch which consists of wine,

spirits, fruit juice and water in varying proportions. There is usually a

buffer of cold meat, pies, sandwiches, savouries, cakes and biscuits. At

midnight the wireless is turned on, so that everyone can hear the chimes of

Big Ben, and on the hour a toast is drunk to the New Year. Then the party

goes on.

Another popular way of celebrating the New Year is to go to a New

Years dance. Most hotels and dance halls hold a special dance on New

Years Eve. The hall is decorated, there are several different bands and

the atmosphere is very gay.

The most famous celebration is in London round the statue of Eros in

Piccadilly Circus where crowds gather and sing and welcome the New Year. In

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

Trafalgar Square there is also a big crowd and someone usually falls into

the fountain.

Those who have no desire or no opportunity to celebrate the New Year

themselves can sit and watch other people celebrating on television. It is

an indication of the relative unimportance of the New Year in England that

the television producers seem unable to find any traditional English

festivities for their programmers and usually show Scottish ones.

January 1st, New Years Day, is not a public holiday, unfortunately

for those who like to celebrate most of the night. Some people send New

Year cards and give presents but this is not a widespread custom. This is

the traditional time for making New Year resolutions, for example, to

give up smoking, or to get up earlier. However, these are generally more

talked about than put into practice.

Also on New Years Day the New Year Honours List is published in

the newspapers; i.e. a list of those who are to be given honours of various

types knighthoods, etc.

In Canada New Years Day has a long tradition of celebration. New

Years Eve in French Canada was (and still is) marked by the custom of

groups of young men, to dress in COLOURful attire and go from house to

house, singing and begging gifts for the poor. New Years Day was (and is)

a time for paying calls on friends and neighbours and for asking the

blessing of the head of the family. The early Governors held a public

reception for the men of the community on New Years morning, a custom

preserved down to the present day. While New Years Day is of less

significance in English Canada than in French Canada, its a public holiday

throughout the country. Wide spread merry-making begins on New Years Eve

with house parties, dinner dances and special theatre entertainment. A

customary feature of the occasion that suggests the Scottish contribution

to the observation is the especially those that couldnt be arranged for

Christmas, are held on New Years Day. New Year isnt such important

holiday in England as Christmas. Some people dont celebrate it at all.

In USA many people have New Year parties. A party usually begins at

about 8 oclock and goes on until early morning. At midnight they listen to

the chimes of Big Ben, drink a toast to the New Year and Sing Auld Lang

Syne.

In London crowds usually gather round the statue of Eros in Piccadilly

Circus and welcome the New Year.

There are some traditions on New Years Day. One of them is the old

First Footing. The first man to come into the house is very important. The

Englishman believes that he brings luck. This man (not a woman) must be

healthy, young, pretty looking. He brings presents-bread, a piece of coal

or a coin. On the New Years Day families watch the old year out and the

New Year in.

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In Scotland the New Years Day is also a public holiday. Some people

ignore it completely and go to bed at the same time as usual on New Years

Eve. Many others, however, do celebrate it in one way or another, the type

of celebration varying very much according to the local custom, family

tradition and personal taste.

The most common type of celebration is a New Year party, either a

family party or one arranged by a group of young people. This usually

begins at about eight oclock and goes on until the early hours of the

morning. There is a lot of drinking, mainly beer, wine, gin and whisky;

sometimes the hosts make a big bowl of punch which consists of wine,

spirits, fruit juice and water in varying proportions. There is usually a

buffet supper of cold meat, pies, sandwiches, savories, cakes and biscuits.

At midnight the wireless is turned on, so that everyone can hear the chimes

of Big Ben, and on the hour a toast is drunk to the New Year. Then the

party goes on.

Hogmanay Celebrations

Hogmanay is a Scottish name for New Years Eve, and is a time for

merrymaking, the giving of presents and the observance of the old custom of

First Footing. One of the most interesting of Scottish Hogmanay

celebrations is the Flambeaux Procession at Comrie, Perthshire. Such

processions can be traced back to the time of the ancient Druids. There is

a procession of townsfolk in fancy dress carrying large torches. They are

led by pipers. When the procession has completed its tour, the flambeaux

(torches) are thrown into a pile, and everyone dances around the blaze

until the torches have burned out.

The Night of Hogmanay

Nowhere else in Britain is the arrival of the New Year celebrated so

wholeheartedly as in Scotland.

Throughout Scotland, the preparations for greeting the New Year start

with a minor spring-cleaning. Brass and silver must be glittering and

fresh linen must be put on the beds. No routine work may be left

unfinished; stockings must be darned, tears mended, clocks wound up,

musical instruments tuned, and pictures hung straight. In addition, all

outstanding bills are paid, overdue letters written and borrowed books

returned. At least, that is the idea!

Most important of all, there must be plenty of good things to eat.

Innumerable homes reek of celestial grocery plum puddings and currant

buns, spices and cordials, apples and lemons, tangerines and toffee. In

mansion and farmhouse, in suburban villa and city tenement, the table is

spread with festive fare. Essential to Hogmanay are cakes and kebbuck

(oatcakes and cheese), shortbread, and either black bun or currant loaf.

There are flanked with bottles of wine and the mountain dew that is the

poetic name for whisky.

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In the cities and burghs, the New Year receives a communal welcome,

the traditional gathering-place being the Mercat Cross, the hub and symbol

of the old burgh life. In Edinburgh, however, the crowd has slid a few

yards down the hill from the Mercat Cross to the Tron Kirk being lured

thither, no doubt, by the four-faced clock in the tower. As the night

advances, Princes Street becomes as thronged as it normally is at noon, and

there is growing excitement in the air. Towards midnight, all steps turn to

the Tron Kirk, where a lively, swaying crowd awaits the Chaplin o the

Twal (the striking of 12 oclock). As the hands of the clock in the tower

approach the hour, a hush falls on the waiting throng, the atmosphere grows

tense, and then suddenly there comes a roar from a myriad throats. The

bells forth, the sirens scream the New Year is born!

Many families prefer to bring in the New Year at home, with music or

dancing, cards or talk. As the evening advances, the fire is piled high

for the brighter the fire, the better the luck. The members of the

household seat themselves round the hearth, and when the hands of the clock

approach the hour, the head of the house rises, goes to the main door,

opens it wide, and holds it thus until the last stroke of midnight has died

away. Then he shuts it quietly and returns to the family circle. He has let

the Old Year out and the New Year in. now greetings and small gifts are

exchanged, glasses are filled and already the First-Footers are at the

door.

The First-Footer, on crossing the threshold, greets the family with

A gude New Year to ane and a! or simply A Happy New Year! and pours

out a glass from the flask he carries. This must be drunk to the dregs by

the head of the house, who, in turn, pours out a glass for each of his

visitors. The glass handed to the First-Footer himself must also be drunk

to the dregs. A popular toast is:

Your good health!

The First-Footers must take something to eat as well as to drink, and

after an exchange of greetings they go off again on their rounds.

ST. VALENTINES DAY FEBRUARY 14

Ill be your sweetheart, if you will be mine,

All of my life Ill be your Valentine

Its here again, the day when boys and girls, sweethearts and lovers,

husbands and wives, friends and neighbours, and even the office staff will

exchange greetings of affections, undying love or satirical comment. And

the quick, slick, modern way to do it is with a Valentine card.

There are all kinds, to suit all tastes, the lush satin cushions,

boxed and be-ribboned, the entwined hearts, gold arrows, roses, cupids,

doggerel rhymes, sick sentiment and sickly sentimentality its all there.

The publishers made sure it was there, as Mr Punch complained, there weeks

in advance!

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In his magazine, Punch, as long ago as 1880 he pointed out that no

sooner was the avalanche of Christmas cards swept away than the publishers

began to fill the shops with their novel valentines, full of Hearts and

Darts, Loves and Doves and Floating Fays and Flowers.

It must have been one of these cards which Charles Dickens describes

in Pickwick Papers. It was a highly coloured representation of a couple of

human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cooking before a cheerful

fire and superintending the cooking was a highly indelicate young

gentleman in a pair of wings and nothing else.

In the last century, sweet-hearts of both sexes would spend hours

fashioning a homemade card or present. The results of some of those

painstaking efforts are still preserved in museums. Lace, ribbon, wild

flowers, coloured paper, feathers and shells, all were brought into use. If

the aspiring (or perspiring) lover had difficulty in thinking up a message

or rhyme there was help at hand. He could dip into the quiver of Love or

St. Valentines Sentimental Writer, these books giving varied selections to

suit everyones choice. Sam Weller, of Pick wick Papers fame, took an hour

and a half to write his Valentine, with much blotting and crossing out

and warnings from his father not to descend to poetry.

The first Valentine of all was a bishop, a Christian martyr, who

before the Romans put him to death sent a note of friendship to his

jailers blind daughter.

The Christian Church took for his saints day February 14; the date

of an old pagan festival when young Roman maidens threw decorated love

missives into an urn to be drawn out by their boy friends.

A French writer who described how the guests of both sexes drew lots

for partners by writing down names on pieces of paper noted this idea of

lottery in 17th century England. It is all the rage, he wrote.

But apparently to bring the game into a family and friendly

atmosphere one could withdraw from the situation by paying a forfeit,

usually a pair of gloves.

One of the older versions of a well-known rhyme gives the same

picture:

The rose is red, the violets are blue,

The honeys sweet and so are you.

Thou art my love and I am thine.

I drew thee to my Valentine.

The lot was cast and then I drew

And fortune said it should be you.

Comic valentines are also traditional. The habit of sending gifts is

dying out, which must be disappointing for the manufacturers, who

nevertheless still hopefully dish out presents for Valentines Day in an

attempt to cash in. and the demand for valentines is increasing. According

to one manufacturer, an estimated 30 million cards will have been sent by

January, 14 and not all cheap stuff, either.

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

Our cards cost from 6d to 15s 6d, he says, but ardent youngsters

want to pay more. They can pay more. I saw a red satin heart-shaped

cushion enthroning a pearl necklace and earrings for 25s. Another, in

velvet bordered with gold lace, topped with a gilt leaf brooch, was 21s

(and if anyone buys them well, it must be love!).

There are all kinds:

The sick joke reclining lady on the front, and inside she will kick

you in the ear.

The satirical You are charming, witty, intelligent, etc., and if

you believe all this you must be inside the card you find an animated

cuckoo clock.

And the take-off of the sentimental Heres the key to my heart

use it before I change the lock.

And the attempts to send a serious message without being too sickly,

ending with variations of mine and thine and Valentine.

So in the 20th century, when there are no longer any bars to

communication between the sexes, the love missives of an older, slower

time, edged carefully over the counters by the publishers and shopkeepers,

still surge through the letter boxes.

PANCAKE DAY

Pancake Day is the popular name for Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding

the first day of Lent. In medieval times the day was characterized by

merrymaking and feasting, a relic of which is the eating of pancakes.

Whatever religious significance Shrove Tuesday may have possessed in the

olden days, it certainly has none now. A Morning Star correspondent who

went to a cross-section of the people he knew to ask what they knew about

Shrove Tuesday received these answers:

Its the day when I say to my wife: Why dont we make pancakes? and

she says, No, not this Tuesday! Anyway, we can make them any time.

It is a religious festival the significance of which escapes me. What

I do remember is that it is Pancake Day and we as children used to brag

about how many pancakes we had eaten.

Its pancake day and also the day of the student rags. Pancakes

luscious, beautiful pancakes. I never know the date bears some

relationship to some holy day.

The origin of the festival is rather obscure, as is the origin of the

custom of pancake eating.

Elfrica Viport, in her book on Christian Festivals, suggests that

since the ingredients of the pancakes were all forbidden by the Church

during Lent then they just had to be used up the day before.

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2012
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