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Holidays and traditions in english-speaking countries

Holidays and traditions in english-speaking countries

Holidays and traditions in English Ц 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 YearТs 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 YearТs 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 oТclock 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

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

YearТs 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 Ц 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 YearТs 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 УNew Year resolutionsФ, 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 YearТs Day the УNew Year Honours ListФ is published in

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

types Ц knighthoods, etc.

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

YearТs 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 YearТs 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 YearТs morning, a custom

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

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

throughout the country. Wide spread merry-making begins on New YearТs 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 couldnТt be arranged for

Christmas, are held on New YearТs Day. New Year isnТt such important

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

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

about 8 oТclock 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 YearТs 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 YearТs Day families watch the old year out and the

New Year in.

Holidays and traditions in English Ц speaking countries.

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

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

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 oТclock 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 YearТs Eve, and is a time for

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

First Ц 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 Уspring-cleaningФ. 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 Уreek of celestial groceryФ Ц 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 Уcakes and kebbuckФ

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

There are flanked with bottles of wine and the Уmountain dewФ that is the

poetic name for whisky.

Holidays and traditions in English Ц 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 Ц 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 Уthe Chaplin oТ the

TwalФ (the striking of 12 oТclock). 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 Ц 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 Ц

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 Ц and already the First-Footers are at the

door.

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

УA gude New Year to ane and aТ!Ф or simply УA Happy New Year!Ф 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:

УYour good health!Ф

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. VALENTINEТS DAY Ц FEBRUARY 14

IТll be your sweetheart, if you will be mine,

All of my life IТll be your Valentine Е

ItТs 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 Ц itТs all there.

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

in advance!Ф

Holidays and traditions in English Ц 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 УHearts and

Darts, Loves and Doves and Floating Fays and FlowersФ.

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

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

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

fireФ and Уsuperintending the cookingФ was a Уhighly indelicate young

gentleman in a pair of wings and nothing elseФ.

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. ValentineТs Sentimental Writer, these books giving varied selections to

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

and a half to write his УValentineФ, 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

jailerТs blind daughter.

The Christian Church took for his saintТs 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. УIt is all the rage,Ф 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 honeyТs 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 ValentineТs 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 Ц and not all cheap stuff, either.

Holidays and traditions in English Ц speaking countries.

УOur cards cost from 6d to 15s 6dФ, he says, but Уardent youngstersФ

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

cushion enthroning a УpearlФ 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 Е well, it must be love!).

There are all kinds:

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

you in the earФ.

The satirical Ц УYou are charming, witty, intelligent, etc.Ф, and Уif

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

cuckoo clock.

And the take-off of the sentimental Ц УHereТs the key to my heart Е

use it before I change the lockФ.

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

ending with variations of УmineФ and УthineФ and УValentineФ.

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:

УItТs the day when I say to my wife: СWhy donТt we make pancakes?Т and

she says, СNo, not this Tuesday! Anyway, we can make them any time.ТФ

УIt 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.Ф

УItТs pancake day and also the day of the student rags. Pancakes Ц

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

relationship to some holy day.Ф

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.

Nancy Price in a book called PaganТs Progress suggests that the

pancake was a Уthin flat cake eaten to stay the pangs of hunger before

going to be shrivenФ (to confession).

Holidays and traditions in English Ц speaking countries.

In his Seasonal Feasts and Festivals E. O. James links up Shrove

Tuesday with the Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) festivals or warmer countries.

These jollifications were an integral element of seasonal ritual for the

purpose of promoting fertility and conquering the malign forces of evil,

especially at the approach of spring.Ф

The most consistent form of celebration in the old days was the all-

over-town ball game or tug-of-war in which everyone let rip before the

traditional feast, tearing here and tearing there, struggling to get the

ball or rope into their part of the town. It seems that several dozen towns

kept up these ball games until only a few years ago.

E. O. James in his book records instances where the Shrove Tuesday

celebrations became pitched battles between citizens led by the local

church authorities.

Today the only custom that is consistently observed throughout Britain

is pancake eating, though here and there other customs still seem to

survive. Among the latter, Pancake Races, the Pancake Greaze custom and

AshbourneТs Shrovetide Football are the best known. Shrovetide is also the

time of Student Rags.

ST DAVIDТS DAY

On the 1st of March each year one can see people walking around London

with leeks pinned to their coats. ј leek is the national emblem of Wales.

The many Welsh people who live in London Ч or in other cities outside Wales

Ч like to show their solidarity on their national day.

The day is actually called Saint DavidТs Day, after а sixth century

abbot who became patron saint of Wales. David is the nearest English

equivalent to the saintТs name, Dawi.

The saint was known traditionally as Уthe WatermanФ, which perhaps

means that he and his monks were teetotallers. ј teetotaller is someone who

drinks nо kind of alcohol, but it does not mean that he drinks only tea, as

many people seem to think.

In spite of the leeks mentioned earlier, Saint DavidТs emblem is not

that, but а dove. No one, not even the Welsh, can explain why they took

leek to symbolize their country, but perhaps it was just as well. After

all, they can't pin а dove to their coat!

MOTHERING SUNDAY (MOTHERSТ DAY)

MothersТ Day is traditionally observed on the fourth Sunday in Lent

(the Church season of penitence beginning on Ash Wednesday, the day of

—траницы: 1, 2, 3


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