There are many dates in the British calendar that are widely celebrated or commemorated; here are just a few examples of these that have come up recently or are still to come:
Halloween- 31 st October
Halloween is the eve of a big Catholic festival called All Saints. The origins of Halloween are unclear but it is widely celebrated. Many children dress up as “scary” characters such as witches, devils, monsters, ghosts etc and go trick or treating. Trick or treating involves going to different houses and saying to the person who answers the door “Trick or Treat!” and that person offers them sweets or chocolate. However, if they don't, the children may sometimes play tricks on them, traditionally throwing an egg at their house or throwing toilet paper around it. People put pumpkins outside their houses with carved faces and a candle inside to show people they celebrate Halloween. In olden times people believed that a lit pumpkin would warn off evil spirits.
Bonfire Night/Guy Fawke's Night- 5th November
Guy Fawkes Night is to commemorate the plot to blow up parliament and kill King James 1st. The plot was made by a group of Catholics who felt they were being treated wrongly, one of them being Guy Fawkes. He is famous because he was caught red handed about to light the gun powder and was then hung for treason along with the rest of the group. There is a rhyme that is famous for this day:
the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason why
Should ever be forgot!"
On this day people celebrate by going to or doing their own firework displays and making bonfires. On the bonfires a straw dummy of Guy Fawkes is burnt in celebration.
Remembrance Day/Armistice Day - 11 th November
This is the day that on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month in 1918 the First World War was ended. On this day every year we remember all the men and women who were killed over the two world wars and also other wars. Red poppies are sold by the Salvation Army for people to wear to show respect. The money goes towards charities to help families and soldiers affected by war. Special services are held all across Britain on Sunday closest to 11 th November, they are held at churches and war memorials. Wreaths are laid down by companies and societies etc and individuals put a wooden cross in memorials to remember a family member who may have died in the war. There is a two minute silence at 11 o'clock on this day and the “Last Post” ( a melody played by a single bugle to mark the end of the day and farewell) is played to start it. A poem called “For the Fallen” is read at services, here is a famous verse from it:
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Christmas day- 25 th December
Christmas Day is when we celebrate the birth of Christ. On the lead up to this day, people decorate their houses and put up Christmas trees, send Christmas cards and enjoy the jolly season with carol services and nativity plays etc. On Christmas Day, families get together to celebrate, exchange gifts and have a big roast lunch. After Christmas day, Boxing Day follows the next day which is also a public holiday. Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas Day and that is when Father Christmas is supposed to deliver all the presents to the children in the night if they have been good that year. Traditionally Father Christmas would enter the house down the chimney and put the presents in a stocking at the end of their beds. Children leave a glass of milk and a carrot for Father Christmas and the reindeer (the animals that transport him) to help them on their way!
New years Day- 1 st January
New Year's Day is the first day of the year and the time to look forward to the coming year. People make New Year resolutions of things they hope to achieve that year, for example quit smoking. This day is a bank holiday and it is traditional to welcome the New Year in the night before, (New Year's Eve). On this night in Britain there are parties, fireworks, and everyone counts down from 10 to the second it becomes midnight. As Big Ben strikes midnight, it is traditional to link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne. In London fireworks are fired from the London Eye where many gather to watch.
St. Valentine's Day- 14 th February
On this day it is traditional for people to express their love for another by sending a Valentine's card, flowers or chocolates. The gifts are sent anonymously, with a "?" left instead of a name in the card. However, not everyone decides to do this.
Shrove Tuesday- 16th February (in 2010)
Shrove Tuesday is also called Pancake Day and is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday and the Tuesday before Lent. It has religious origins of when Christians used up all the rich foods in the cupboard before Lent. This was because during Lent, eggs, sugar and butter were not allowed so they were used to make pancakes. Even though it has a religious background everyone celebrates and makes pancakes regardless. An English pancake is very thin and traditionally with caster sugar and lemon sprinkled on the top.