New Years Day
Happy New Year! Marking the start of the Gregorian calendar year. Not many shops or services are available on this day in the whole of the UK. Many people take the time to relax and on this time; usually sleeping off the heavy night from before, welcoming in the new year and failing their New Year’s Resolutions!
Auld Lang Syne! The Scots take this as an additional day after New Year’s. Scottish folk celebrate Hogmanay at the New Year; food and drink are given as presents. Lucky scots!
St. Patrick’s Day
Whaaat a craic! St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and Northern Ireland; 17th March is his feast day. St. Patrick is hailed as banishing the snakes from Ireland, though evidence suggests this is a myth. On this day many UK cities hold parades and celebrate the Irish community. The colour green is a prominent theme with many places decorating things with green shamrocks in honour of the Emerald Isle.
Hot Cross Buns! Good Friday is always held on the Friday before Easter Sunday. It is a Christian holiday, which mourns the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On this day, some Christians, notably Catholics don’t eat meat as a sign of fasting, but a food that is usually eaten is hot cross buns. Some Christians like to go on long walks to represent the walk Jesus endured before his crucifixion. In the Republic of Ireland sale of alcohol is prohibited on this day. To calculate when Good Friday will fall, you need to get out your telescope, not your calendar, as Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox. As Good Friday is determined by Easter Sunday, this is affected by the full moon too. The earliest the day it can fall is 20th March and the latest is 23rd April. 2011. This is the first time since 1859 that it has fallen on this day!
How do you eat yours? Easter Monday is the day after Easter Sunday, and thus also determined by the paschal full moon. As Easter Sunday marks the end of the fasting period Lent, Easter Monday (like Sunday) is usually a day of indulgence. Recent traditions involve eating chocolate Easter eggs or going on egg hunts for both Christians and non-Christians.
I do! 2011 is the year that Prince William, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, will marry his fiancée Kate Middleton. The wedding is taking place at Westminster Abbey. The wedding has been declared a public holiday, as was the wedding of William’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana. This encourages supporters to watch the wedding or to plan a street party. William is 2nd in line to the throne and likely to be King of the commonwealth one day, so today is a momentous occasion.
Here we go round the maypole! Many towns and villages have their own traditions are held on May Day, such as electing a May Queen and maypole dancing. The day is also associated with Morris dancing, for those of you who don’t know what it is (not sure anyone does) it involves at least one, if not all, of the following elements; sticks, socks, feathers, swords, bells and handkerchiefs! May Day originated as a combination of pagan and Christian festivals, with traditions from both religions still being memorized in recent years. In 2011, the British government announced they were considering scrapping this holiday in favour of a holiday in October called Trafalgar Day, in order to spread the bank holidays out more evenly. The decision has had mixed responses, the most popular opinion held is that both should be celebrated.
Spring and Summer Bank Holidays
Have a lie-in! If only the term ‘Bank Holiday’ meant the bank gave everyone free money to go on holiday with, that really would be something to be cheery about! Although this isn’t the case, the Spring and Summer bank holidays are a great excuse for a long weekend. People tend to celebrate by having a picnic or BBQ if it is sunny or visiting local attractions and popular ‘day out’ resorts.
Diamonds Are Forever! Well, at least for 60 years. The Diamond Jubilee will celebrate Queen Elizabeth II 60th Anniversary of her reign. It is likely that street parties will be organized across the United Kingdom, usually with the red, white and blue theme, found on the United Kingdom flag – The Union Jack.
Where’s my bowler hat? Also known as ‘The Twelfth’ or ‘The Battle of the Boyne’, Orangemen’s Day is a Northern Irish parade day held on the 12th July to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne, a battle that took place in Northern Ireland between Catholic British King James II and Protestant William of Orange (in the Netherlands). William prevailed, which created the unification of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, known as the modern United Kingdom. Nowadays to celebrate the day, people parade in Northern Ireland wearing the colour orange and bowler hats. Makes me want a Jaffa cake.
St. Andrew’s Day
Och Aye Th’Noo! St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland; 30th November is his feast day, a public holiday in Scotland (not the rest of the UK unfortunately). There are three stories which could be the explanation of how St. Andrew came to be the patron of Scotland. The first alleges that due to a shipwreck, St. Andrew’s bones were washed up in Scotland from Patras, Greece. The second story suggests that Angus mac Fergus, a Pict king saw a saltire cross in the sky (the symbol of St. Andrew) just before winning a battle. The third story claims that St. Andrew was the person who designed tartan. Ok, I made up that last one. On the 30th, Scottish people embrace their national traditions, such as bagpipes and highland dancing at festivals and parties. Banks are not officially required to close in Scotland on this day and employers aren’t required to give employees a paid day off – Bu’ tha’ isnae fair!
Ho, ho, ho! This Christian holiday generally needs no introduction. Many countries and cultures celebrate this religious holiday in different ways, but usually on the same day, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. An increasing number of non-Christians celebrate it, and many consider it to be their main holiday, as it comes at the end of the year, after a long period of no holidays (except St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland). This day is shrouded in traditions that involve; Christmas trees, feasting on too much food, giving and receiving presents, spending time with wider circles of the family. Shame it comes but once a year!
Walk off your Christmas dinner in the sales! ‘Boxing Day’ is the name used by the UK for 26th December, the day succeeding Christmas. If Boxing Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday then the holiday is moved to the following Monday; this happened in 2010 (and it was brilliant!). It is unclear where the name originated from but some people believe it stems from the term ‘Christmas Boxes’ which were boxes of money given to the poor the day after Christmas Day. Nowadays, I think it relates to the mass amount of boxes of chocolates that my family eats on this day! In the UK it is a very popular shopping day, both in stores and online and also traditionally a day people spend time with family playing games.