Traditions and holidays of Great Britain


                  Traditions and holidays 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 the world.
      From Scotland to Cornwall, 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.
      You cannot really imagine Britain without  all  its  traditions,  this
integral feature of social and private life of  the  people  living  on  the
British Isles that has always been an  important  part  of  their  life  and
work.
      English traditions can  classified  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.
      What about royal traditions? There are numerous  royal  traditions  in
Britain, some are ancient, others are modern.
      The Queen is the only person in Britain with two birthdays.  Her  real
birthday is on April 21st, but she has an “official” birthday, too. That  is
on the second Saturday in June. And on the Queen’s official birthday,  there
is a traditional ceremony called the Trooping of the Colour.  It  is  a  big
parade with brass bands and hundreds of soldiers at Horse Guard’s Parade  in
London. A “regiment” of the Queen’s soldiers, the Guards, march in front  of
her. At the front of the parade there is the regiment’s  flag  or  “colour”.
Thousands of Londoners and visitors  watch  in  Horse  Guards’  Parade.  And
millions of people at home watch it on television. This custom is  not  very
old, but it is for very old people. On his or her one hundredth birthday,  a
British person gets a telegram with congratulations from the Queen.
      The changing of the Guard happens every day at Buckingham Palace,  the
Queen’s home in London. The ceremony always attracts a lot of  spectators  –
Londoners as well as visitors – to the British capital.
      So soldiers stand on front of the palace. Each morning these  soldiers
(the “guard”) change. One group leaves and another arrives.  In  summer  and
winter tourists stand outside the palace at 11:30 every  morning  and  watch
the Changing of the Guard.
      Traditionally the Queen opens Parliament every autumn. But Parliament,
not the Royal Family,  controls  modern  Britain.  The  Queen  travels  from
Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament  in  a  gold  carriage  –  the
Irish State Coach. At the Houses of Parliament the Queen sits on a  “throne”
in the House of Lords. Then she reads the “Queen’s  Speech”.  At  the  State
Opening of Parliament the Queen wears a crown. She wears other  jewels  from
the Crown Jewels, too.
      Every year, there is a new Lord Mayor of  London.  The  Mayor  is  the
city’s traditional leader. And the second Saturday  in  November  is  always
the day for the Lord Mayor’s Show. This ceremony is over six  hundred  years
old. It is also London’s biggest parade.
      The Lord Mayor drives to the Royal Courts of Justice in a  coach.  The
coach is two hundred years old. It is red and gold and it has six horses.
      As it is also a big parade,  people  make  special  costumes  and  act
stories from London’s history.
      In Britain as in other countries costumes and  uniforms  have  a  long
history.
      One is the uniform of the Beefeaters at the tower of London. This came
first from France. Another is the uniform  of  the  Horse  Guards  at  Horse
Guard’s Parade, not far from Buckingham Palace. Thousands of  visitors  take
photographs of the Horse Guards.
      Britannia is a symbol of Britain. And she wears  traditional  clothes,
too. But she is not a real person.
      Lots of ordinary clothes have a long tradition. The famous bowler hat,
for example. A man called Beaulieu made the first one in 1850.
      One of the British soldiers, Wellington, gave his name to  a  pair  of
boots. They have a shorter name today – “Wellies”.
      There is a very special royal tradition. On the River Thames there are
hundreds  of  swans.  A  lot  of  these  beautiful   white   birds   belong,
traditionally, to the king or queen. In July the young swans on  the  Thames
are about two months old. Then the Queen’s swan  keeper  goes,  in  a  boat,
from London Bridge to Henley. He looks at all the young swans and marks  the
royal ones. The name of this strange nut interesting custom is Swan Upping.
      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,  Good
Friday, Easter Monday, Spring Bank Holiday and  Late  Summer  Bank  Holiday,
Boxing Day.
      So the most popular holiday in Britain  is  Christmas.  Christmas  has
been celebrated from the earliest days of recorded  history,  and  each  era
and race has pasted a colourful sheet of new  customs  and  traditions  over
the old.
      On the Sunday before Christmas many  churches  hold  a  carol  service
where special hymns are sung. Sometimes carol singers can be  heard  in  the
streets as they collect money for charity. There are a lot of  very  popular
British Christmas carols. Three famous  ones  are:  “Good  King  Wenceslas”,
“The Holly and The Ivy” and “We Three Kings”.
      Each year, hundreds of thousands of people all over the world send and
receive Christmas cards. Most of  people  think  that  exchanging  cards  at
Christmas is a very ancient custom but it  is  not  right.  In  fact  it  is
barely 100 years old.  The  idea  of  exchanging  illustrated  greeting  and
presents is, however, ancient. So the first commercial  Christmas  card  was
produced in Britain in 1843 by Henry  Cole,  founder  of  the  Victoria  and
Albert Museum, London. The handcoloured print was inscribed with  the  words
’A Merry Christmas and A  Happy  New  Year  to  you’.  It  was  horizontally
rectangular in shape, printed on stout cardboard by lithography.
      A traditional feature of Christmas in Britain is the  Christmas  tree.
Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, brought the  German  tradition  (he
was German) to Britain. He and the Queen had a  Christmas  tree  at  Windsor
Castle in 1841. A few years after, nearly every house in  Britain  had  one.
Traditionally  people  decorate  their  trees  on  Christmas  Eve  –  that’s
December 24th. They take down the decorations twelve days later, on  Twelfth
Night (January 5th).
      An older tradition is Christmas mistletoe. People put a piece of  this
green plant with its white berries over a door. Mistletoe brings good  luck,
people say. Also, at Christmas British people kiss their friends and  family
under the mistletoe.
      Those who live away try to get back home because Christmas is a family
celebration and it is the biggest holiday of the year.  As  Christmas  comes
nearer, everyone is buying presents for relatives and friends. At  Christmas
people try to give their children everything they  want.  And  the  children
count the weeks, than the  days,  to  Christmas.  They  are  wondering  what
presents on December 24th. Father Christmas brings  their  presents  in  the
night. Then they open them on the morning of the 25th.
      There is another name for Father Christmas in Britain –  Santa  Claus.
That comes from  the  European  name  for  him  –  Saint  Nicholas.  In  the
traditional story he lives at the North Pole. But now he lives in big  shops
in towns and cities all over Britain. Well, that’s where  children  see  him
in November and December. Then on Christmas Eve he visits  every  house.  He
climbs down the chimney and leaves  lots  of  presents.  Some  people  leave
something for him, too. A glass of wine and some biscuits, for example.
      At Christmas everyone decorates their houses with holly, ivy colourful
lamps.
      In Britain the most important  meal  on  December  25th  is  Christmas
dinner. Nearly  all  Christmas  food  is  traditional,  but  a  lot  of  the
traditions are not very old. For example, there were no turkeys  in  Britain
before 1800. And even in the nineteenth century, goose was  the  traditional
meat at Christmas. But not now.
      A twentieth-century British Christmas  dinner  is  roast  turkey  with
carrots, potatoes, peas, Brussels sprouts and gravy. There are sausages  and
bacon, too. Then, after the turkey, there’s Christmas pudding.  Some  people
make this pudding months before Christmas. A lot of families have their  own
Christmas pudding recipes. Some, for example, use a lot  of  brandy.  Others
put in a lot of fruit or add a silver coin for  good  luck.  Real  Christmas
puddings always have a piece of holly on the top.  Holly  bushes  and  trees
have red berries at Christmas time, and so  people  use  holly  to  decorate
their houses for Christmas.  The  holly  on  the  pudding  is  part  of  the
decoration.
      Crackers are also usual at Christmas dinner.  These  came  to  Britain
from China in the nineteenth century. Two people  pull  a  cracker.  Usually
there is a small toy in the middle. Often there is a  joke  on  a  piece  of
paper, too. Most of the jokes in Christmas crackers are not very good.  Here
is on example:
                      Customer: Waiter, there’s a frog in my soup.
                      Waiter: Yes, sir, the fly’s on holidays.
      A pantomime is a traditional English entertainment at Christmas. It is
meant for children, but adults enjoy is just as much. It is a very old  form
of entertainment, and can be traced back to 16th century  Italian  comedies.
There have been a lot of changes over the years.  Singing  and  dancing  and
all kinds of jokes have been added; but the stories that are told are  still
fairy tales, with a hero, a heroine, and a villain.
      In every pantomime there are always three main characters.  These  are
the “principal boy”, the “principal girl”, and the  “dame”.  Pantomimes  are
changing all the time. Every year, someone has a new idea to make them  more
exciting or more up-to-date.
      December 26th is Boxing Day. Traditionally boys from the shops in each
town asked for money  at  Christmas.  They  went  from  house  to  house  on
December 26th and took boxes made of wood with them. At  each  house  people
gave them money. This was a Christmas present. So the name of December  26th
doesn’t come from the sport of boxing –  it  comes  from  the  boys’  wooden
boxes. Now, Boxing Day is an extra holiday after Christmas Day.
      Traditionally Boxing Day Hunts is a day for foxhunting.  The  huntsmen
and huntswomen ride horses. They  use  dogs,  too.  The  dogs  (fox  hounds)
follow the smell of the fox. Then the huntsmen  and  huntswomen  follow  the
hounds. Before a Boxing Day hunt, the  huntsmen  and  huntswomen  drink  not
wine. But the tradition of the December 26th hunt  is  changing.  Now,  some
people want to stop Boxing Day Hunts (and  other  hunts,  too).  They  don’t
like foxhunting. For them it’s not a sport – it is cruel.
      In England people celebrate the New Year. But it 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  Year’s  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.  And  another
popular way of celebrating the New Year is to go to a New Year’s dance.
      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
Trafalgar Square there is also a big crowd and someone  usually  falls  into
the fountain.
      Every Year the people of Norway give the city  of  London  a  present.
It’s a big Christmas tree  and  it  stands  in  Trafalgar  Square.  Also  in
central London, Oxford  Street  and  Regent  Street  always  have  beautiful
decorations at the New Year and Christmas. Thousands of people come to  look
at them.
      In Britain a lot of people make New Year Resolutions on the evening of
December 31st. For example, “I’ll get up early every morning next year”,  or
“I’ll clean, my shoes every day”.  But  there  is  a  problem.  Most  people
forget their New Year Resolutions on January 2nd.
      But New Year’s Eve is a more important festival in Scotland then it is
in England, and it even has a special  name.  It  is  not  clear  where  the
‘Hogmanay’ comes from, but it is connected with the provision  of  food  and
drink for all visitors to your home on 31st December.
      There is a Scottish song that is sung all over the world  at  midnight
on New Year’s Eve. It was written  by  Robert  Burns,  the  famous  Scottish
poet, and you may find some of the traditional  words  a  bit  difficult  to
understand, but that’s the way it’s always sung – even by English people!
      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 of 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. In some parts  of  northern  England  this
pleasing custom is still observed.  So  this  interesting  tradition  called
“First Footing”.
      On Bank holiday the townsfolk usually flock into the  country  and  to
the coast. If the weather is fine many families take a  picnic  –  lunch  or
tea with them and enjoy their meal in the open. Seaside towns  near  London,
such as Southend, are invaded by thousands of trippers who come in cars  and
coaches, trains and bicycles. Great amusement parks  like  Southend  Kursoal
do a roaring trade with their scenic railways,  shooting  galleries,  water-
shoots, Crazy houses and so on. Trippers will wear  comic  paper  hats  with
slogans, and they will eat and drink the weirdest mixture of stuff  you  can
imagine, sea food like cockles,  mussels,  whelks,  fish  and  chips,  candy
floss, tea, fizzy drinks, everything you can imagine.
      Bank holiday is also an occasion for big sports meeting at places like
the White City Stadium, mainly all kinds of athletics. There are also  horse
race meetings all over the country, and most traditional of all,  there  are
large fairs with swings, roundabouts, a Punch and Judy show, hoop-la  stalls
and every kind of side-show including, in recent, bingo. There is also  much
boating activity on the Thames.
      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  her  name  from  the  world  east,  where  the
sunrises. Every spring northern European peoples celebrated the festival  of
Eostre to honour the awakening of new life  in  nature.  Christians  related
the rising of the sun to the resurrection of Jesus and their  own  spiritual
rebirth.
      Many modern  Easter  symbols  come  from  pagan  time.  The  egg,  for
instance, was a fertility symbol long before the Christian era. The  ancient
Persians, Greeks and Chinese exchanged eggs at  their  sping  festivals.  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  time  is
still very popular.
      The Easter bunny also originated in pre-Christian fertility lore.  The
rabbit was the most fertile animal our ances tors 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  supposedly  brings  Easter
eggs in a fancy basket.
      Also  there  is  a  spectacular  parade  on  Easter.  It  is  a  truly
spectacular Easter Parade in Battersea Park. It is sponsored by  the  London
Tourist Board and is usually planned around a central theme related  to  the
history and attractions of London. The great procession, or  parade,  begins
at 3 p.m. but it is advisable to  find  a  vantage-point  well  before  that
hour.
      On October 31st British people celebrate Halloween. It is  undoubtedly
the most colourful and exciting holiday of the year.  Though  it  is  not  a
public holiday, it is very dear to those who  celebrate  it,  especially  to
children and teenagers. This day was  originally  called  All  Hallow’s  Eve
because it fell on the eve of All Saints’ Day. The name was later  shortened
to Halloween. According to old beliefs, Halloween  is  the  time,  when  the
veil between the living and the  dead  is  partially  lifted,  and  witches,
ghosts and other super natural beings  are  about.  Now  children  celebrate
Halloween in unusual costumes and masks. It is a  festival  of  merrymaking,
superstitions  spells,  fortunetelling,  traditional   games   and   pranks.
Halloween is a time for fun.
      Few holidays tell us much  of  the  past  as  Halloween.  Its  origins
dateback to a time, when people believed  in  devils,  witches  and  ghosts.
Many Halloween customs are based on beliefs of the ancient Celts, who  lived
more than 2,000 years ago  in  what  is  now  Great  Britain,  Ireland,  and
northern France.
      Every year the Celts celebrated the Druid festival of Samhain, Lord of
the Dead and Prince of Darkness. It fell on  October  31,  the  eve  of  the
Druid new year. The date marked the end of summer, or the time when the  sun
retreated before the powers of darkness and the reign of the Lord  of  Death
began. The Dun god took part in the holiday  and  received  thanks  for  the
year’s harvest.
      It was believed that evil spirits sometimes played tricks  on  October
31. They could also do all kinds of damage to property.  Some  people  tried
to ward of the witches by painting magic signs on their barns. Others  tried
to frighten them away by nailing a piece of iron, such as a horseshoe,  over
the door.
      Many fears and superstitions grew up about this  day.  An  old  Scotch
superstition was that witches – those who had sold their souls to the  devil
– left in their beds on Halloween night a stick made by magic to  look  like
themselves. Then they would fly up the chime attended by a black cat.
      In Ireland, and some other parts of Great Britain,  it  was  believed,
that fairies spirited  away  young  wives,  whom  they  returned  dazed  and
amnesic 366 days later.
      When Halloween night fell, people in some places dressed up and  tried
to resemble the souls of the dead. They hoped that the  ghosts  would  leave
peacefully before midnight. They  carried  food  to  the  edge  of  town  or
village and left it for the spirits.
      In Wales, they believed that the devil appeared in the shape of a pig,
a horse, or a dog. On that night, every person marked a stone and put it  in
a bonfire. If a person’s stone was missing  the  next  morning,  he  or  she
would die within a year.
      Much later, when Christianity came to Great Britain and  Ireland,  the
Church wisely let the people keep their old feast. But  it  gave  it  a  new
association when in the 9th century a festival in honour of all saints  (All
Hallows) was fixed on November 1. In the 11th century November 2 became  All
Souls’ Day to honour the souls of the  dead,  particularly  those  who  died
during the year.
      Christian tradition included the  lighting  of  bonfires  and  carring
blazing torches all around the fields. In  some  places  masses  of  flaming
staw were flung into the air. When  these  ceremonies  were  over,  everyone
returned home to feast on the new crop of apples and  nuts,  which  are  the
traditional Halloween foods. On that night, people related their  experience
with strange noises and spooky shadows and played traditional games.
      Halloween customs today follow many of the ancient traditions,  though
their significance has long since disappeared.
      A favourite Halloween custom is to make  a  jack-j’-lantern.  Children
take out the middle of the pumpkin, cut hole holes for the  eyes,  nose  and
mouth in its side and, finally, they put a  candle  inside  the  pumpkin  to
scare their friends.  The  candle  burning  inside  makes  the  orange  face
visible from far away on a dark night –  and  the  pulp  makes  a  delicious
pumpkin-pie.
      People in England and Ireland once carved  out  beets,  potatoes,  and
turnips to make jack-o’-lanterns on Halloween.  When  the  Scots  and  Irish
came to the United States, they brought their customs with  them.  But  they
began to carve faces on pumpkins because they were more plentiful in  autumn
than turnips. Nowadays, British carve faces on pumpkins, too.
      According to an Irish legend, jack-o’-lanterns were named  for  a  man
called Jack who was notorious for his  drunkenness  and  being  stingy.  One
evening at the local pub, the Devil appeared to take his soul.  Clever  Jack
persuaded the Devil to “have one drink together before we go”.  To  pay  for
his drink the Devil turned himself into a sixpence. Jack immediately put  it
into his wallet. The Devil couldn’t escape from it because it  had  a  catch
in the form of a cross.  Jack  released  the  Devil  only  when  the  latter
promised to leave him in peace for another year. Twelve months  later,  Jack
played another practical joke on the Devil, letting him  down  from  a  tree
only on the promise that he would never purse  him  again.  Finally,  Jack’s
body wore out. He could not enter heaven because he was a  miser.  He  could
not enter hell either, because he played jokes on the  Devil.  Jack  was  in
despair. He begged the Devil for a live coal to light his  way  out  of  the
dark. He put it into a turnip and, as the story  goes,  is  still  wandering
around the earth with his lantern.
      Halloween is something called Beggars’ Night or Trick or Treat  night.
Some people celebrate Beggars’ Night as  Irish  children  did  in  the  17th
century. They dress up as ghosts and witches and  go  into  the  streets  to
beg. And children go from  house  to  house  and  say:  “Trick  or  treat!”,
meaning “Give me a treat or I’ll play  a  trick  on  you”.  Some  groups  of
“ghosts” chant Beggars’ Night rhymes:
                      Trick or treat,
                      Smell our feet.
                      We want something
                      Good to eat.
      In big cities Halloween celebrations often include special  decorating
contests. Young people are  invited  to  soap  shop-windows,  and  they  get
prizes for the best soap-drawings.
      In old times, practical jokes were even more elaborate. It  was  quite
normal to steal gates, block house doors, and cover chimneys  with  turf  so
that smoke could not escape. Blame for resulting chaos was naturally  placed
on the “spirits”.
      At Halloween parties the guests  wear  every  kind  of  costume.  Some
people dress up like supernatural creatures,  other  prefers  historical  or
political  figures.  You  can  also  meet  pirates,  princesses,   Draculas,
Cinderellas, or even Frankenstein’s monsters at a Halloween festival.
      At Halloween parties children play traditional games. Many games  date
back to the harvest festivals  of  very  ancient  times.  One  of  the  most
popular is called bobbing for apples. One child at a time has to get  apples
from a tub of water without using hands. But how to do this? By sinking  his
or her face into the water and biting the apple!
      Another game is pin-the-tail-on-the –donkey. One child is blind folded
and spun slowly so that he or she will become dizzy.  Then  the  child  must
find a paper donkey haging on the wall and try to pin a tail onto the back.
      And no Halloween party is complete without at least one  scary  story.
It helps too create an air of mystery.
      Certain fortunetelling methods began in Europe hundreds of  years  ago
and became an important part of Halloween. For example,  such  object  as  a
coin, a ring, and a thimble were baked into a cake or  other  food.  It  was
believed that the person who  found  the  coin  in  the  cake  would  become
wealthy. The one who found the ring would marry soon,  but  the  person  who
got the thimble would never get married.
      Unfortunately now most people do not believe  in  evil  spirits.  They
know that evil spirits do not  break  steps,  spill  garbage  or  pull  down
fences. If property is damaged, they blame naughty boys  and  girls.  Today,
Halloween is still a bad night for the police…
      March 1st is a very important day for Welsh people. It’s  St.  David’s
Day. He’s the “patron” or national saint of Wales. On March 1st,  the  Welsh
celebrate St. Davids Day and wear daffodils  in  the  buttonholes  of  their
coats or jackets.
      On February 14th it’s Saint Valentine’s Day in Britain. It  is  not  a
national holiday. Banks and offices do not close, but it is a  happy  little
festival in honour of St. Valentine. On  this  day,  people  send  Valentine
cards to their husbands, wives, girlfriends and  boyfriends.  You  can  also
send a card to a person you do not know. But traditionally  you  must  never
write your name  on  it.  Some  British  newspapers  have  got  a  page  for
Valentine’s Day messages on February 14th.
      This lovely day is widely celebrated among people of all ages  by  the
exchanging of “valentines”.
      Saint Valentine was a martyr but this feast goes back to  pagan  times
and the Roman feast of Lupercalia. The names of young unmarried  girls  were
put into a vase. The young men  each  picked  a  name,  and  discovered  the
identity of their brides.
      This custom came to Britain when the Romans invaded it. But the church
moved the festival to the nearest Christian  saint’s  day:  this  was  Saint
Valentine’s Day.
      Midsummer’s Day, June 24th, is the longest day of the  year.  On  that
day you can see a very old custom  at  Stonehenge,  in  Wiltshire,  England.
Stonehenge is on of Europe’s biggest stone circles. A lot of the stones  are
ten or twelve metres high. It  is  also  very  old.  The  earliest  part  of
Stonehenge is nearly 5,000 years  old.  But  what  was  Stonehenge?  A  holy
place? A market? Or was it a kind of calendar? Many people  think  that  the
Druids used it for a calendar. The Druids were the priests in Britain  2,000
years ago. They used the sun and the stones at Stonehenge to know the  start
of months and seasons. There are Druids in Britain  today,  too.  And  every
June 24th a lot of them go to Stonehenge. On that morning the sun shines  on
one famous stone – the Heel stone. For the Druids this is a  very  important
moment in the year. But for a lot of British people it  is  just  a  strange
old custom.
      Londoners celebrate carnivals. And one of  them  is  Europe’s  biggest
street carnival. A lot of people in the Notting Hill  area  of  London  come
from the West Indies – a group of islands in  the  Caribbean.  And  for  two
days in August, Nutting Hill is the West Indies. There is West  Indian  food
and music in the streets. There is also a big parade and  people  dance  day
and night.
      April 1st is April Fool’s Day in Britain. This is a very old tradition
from the Middle Ages (between the fifth and fifteenth  centuries).  At  that
time the servants were masters for one day of the year. They gave orders  to
their masters, and their masters had to obey.
      Now April Fool’s Day is different. It is a day for jokes and tricks.
      One of the most interesting competitions is the university boat race.
      Oxford and Cambridge are Britain’s two  oldest  universities.  In  the
nineteenth century, rowing was a popular sport at  both  of  them.  In  1829
they agreed to have a race. They raced on the river Thames  and  the  Oxford
boat won. That started a tradition. Now, every Spring, the  University  Boat
Race goes from Putney to Mortlake on the Thames.  That  is  6,7  kilometres.
The Cambridge rowers wear light blue shirts and the Oxford rowers wear  dark
blue. There are eight men in each boat. There  is  also  a  “cox”.  The  cox
controls the boat. Traditionally coxes are men, but Susan Brown  became  the
first woman cox in 1981. She was the cox for Oxford and they won.
      An annual British tradition, which captures  the  imagination  of  the
whole nation is the London to  Brighton  Car  Rally  in  which  a  fleet  of
ancient cars indulges in a lighthearted race from the Capital to the Coast.
      When the veteran cars set out  on  the  London  –  Brighton  run  each
November, they are celebrating one of the great landmarks in the history  of
motoring in Britain – the  abolition  of  the  rule  that  every  “horseless
carriage” had to be preceded along the road by a pedestrian. This  extremely
irksome restriction,  imposed  by  the  Locomotives  on  Highways  Act,  was
withdrawn in 1896, and on November of that year there was a rally of  motor-
cars on the London - Brighton highway to celebrate the first day of  freedom
– Emancipation Day, as it has known by motorists ever since.
      Emancipation is still on the first Sunday of the month,  but  nowadays
there is an important condition of entry – every car taking part must be  at
least 60 years old.
      The Run is not a race. Entrants are limited to a maximum average speed
of 20 miles  per  hour.  The  great  thing  is  not  speed  but  quality  of
performance, and the dedicated enthusiasts have  a  conversation  all  their
own.
      The Highland Games – this  sporting  tradition  is  Scottish.  In  the
Highlands (the mountains of Scotland)  families,  or  “clans”,  started  the
Games hundreds of years ago.
      Some of the sports are the Games are international: the high jump  and
the long jump, for example. But other sports happen  only  at  the  Highland
Games. One is tossing the caber. “Tossing” means throwing, and a “caber”  is
a long, heavy piece of wood. In tossing the caber you  lift  the  caber  (it
can be five or six metres tall). Then you throw it in front of you.
      At the Highland Games a lot of men wear kilts. These  are  traditional
Scottish skirts for men. But they are not all the  same.  Each  clan  has  a
different “tartan”. That is the name for the pattern on the kilt. So at  the
Highland Games there are traditional sports  and  traditional  instrument  –
the bagpipes. The bagpipes are very loud.  They  say  Scots  soldier  played
them before a battle. The noise frightened the soldiers on other side.
      The world’s most famous tennis tournament is Wimbledon. It started  at
a small club in south London in the nineteenth century. Now  a  lot  of  the
nineteenth century traditions have changed. For example, the  women  players
don’t have to wear long skirts. And the men players  do  not  have  to  wear
long trousers. But other traditions  have  not  changed  at  Wimbledon.  The
courts are still grass, and visitors still eat strawberries and  cream.  The
language of tennis has not changed either.
      There are some British traditions and customs concerning their private
life. The British are considered to be the world’s  greatest  tea  drinkers.
And so tea is Britain’s favourite drink. The English know how  to  make  tea
and what it does for you. In England people say jokingly: ‘The test of  good
tea is simple. If a spoon stands up in it, then it is strong enough; if  the
spoon starts to wobble, it is a feeble makeshift’.
      Every country has its drinking habits, some of which are  general  and
obvious, others most peculiar. Most countries also have  a  national  drink.
In England the national is beer, and the pub “pub”, where people talk,  eat,
drink, meet their friends and relax.
      The word “pub” is short for “public house”. Pubs sell  beer.  (British
beer is always warm). An important custom in pubs is “buying a round”. In  a
group, one person buys all the others a drink. This is a “round”.  Then  one
by one all the people buy rounds, too. If they  are  with  friends,  British
people sometimes lift their glasses before they  drink  and  say:  “Cheers”.
This means “Good luck”.
      In the pubs in south-west England there is another traditional  drink-
scrumpy.
      Pub names often have a long tradition. Some come from  the  thirteenth
or fourteenth century. Every pub has a name and every pub has a  sign  above
its door. The sign shows a picture of the pub’s name.
      And as you know, the British talk about the weather a lot.  They  talk
about the weather because it changes so often. Wind, rain, sun, cloud,  snow
– they can all happen in a British winter – or a British summer.
      Hundreds of years ago, soldiers began this custom. They shook hands to
show that they did not have a sword. Now, shaking hands is a custom in  most
countries.
      Frenchman shake hands every time they meet, and  kiss  each  other  on
both cheeks as a ceremonial salute,  like  the  Russians,  while  Englishmen
shake hands only when they are introduced, or after a long absence.
      Victorian England made nearly as many rules about hand shaking as  the
Chinese did about bowing. A man could not  offer  his  hand  first  a  lady;
young ladies did not shake men’s hands at all unless they were old  friends;
married ladies could offer their hands in a room, but not in  public,  where
they would bow slightly.
      I have chosen the topic British customs  traditions  because  I  enjoy
learning the English language and wanted to know more about British ways  of
life and traditions. Working  on  this  topic  I  have  to  conclusion  that
British people are very conservative. They are  proud  pf  their  traditions
and carefully keep them up. It  was  interesting  to  know  that  foreigners
coming to England are stuck at  once  by  quite  a  number  of  customs  and
peculiarities.
      So I think of Britain as a place a lot of different  types  of  people
who observe their traditions.

      Литература:
   1. Голицынский Ю. “Great Britain” изд. «Каро» г. С.-Петербург, 1999г.;
   2. Колуфман К.И. «Страницы Британской истории» изд. «Титул»  г.  Обнинск,
      1999г.;
   3. Костенко Г.Т. “Reader for summer” изд. «Просвещение» г. Москва 1985г.;
   4. Миньяр-Белоручева А.П. «Английский язык для абитуриентов и школьников»
      изд. «Московский лицей» 1999г.;
   5. Ощепкова В.В. “Britain in Brief” изд. «Лист» г. Москва 1999г.;
   6. Рис-Пармен “Christmas”, журнал «Англия» №69 стр. 113-119;
   7. Рис-Парнал Хиларн “Hello and goodbye”, журнал «Англия» №73  стр.  115-
      117;
   8. Рис-Парнал «Рождество», журнал «Англия» №77 стр.107-109;
   9. Стивен Раблей  “Customs  and  traditions  in  Britain”  изд.  “Longman
      Group”, ИК, 1996г.;
  10. Усова Г.С. “British history” изд. «Лань» г. С.-Петербург 1999г.;
  11. Хишунина Т.Н. “Customs,  traditions  and  holidays  in  Britain”  изд.
      «Просвещение» г.С.-Петербург 1975г.;
  12. Цветкова И.В. «Английский для поступающих в  вузы»  изд.  «Глосса»  г.
      Москва 1997г.;
  13. Цветкова И.В. журнал «Speak out» изд. «Глосса» г. Тула 1997г. стр.2-8.