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Customs and Traditions in the UK

The Main Christian festivals

Christmas Day, celebrated on 25 December, commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a public holiday and many Christians attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Families gather together and enjoy a special meal that typically includes roast turkey, Christmas pudding, and mince pies. Gifts are exchanged, cards are sent, and homes are decorated with festive ornaments. Children believe in Father Christmas (Santa Claus) who brings them presents overnight. Many households also have a decorated Christmas tree. Boxing Day, which falls on 26 December, is also a public holiday in the UK.
Easter, which takes place in March or April, commemorates the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays. The 40 days leading up to Easter are known as Lent, during which Christians reflect and prepare for Easter. This is traditionally a time of fasting, and many people still give up certain foods or habits during Lent. The day before Lent starts is called Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, when people eat pancakes as a way to use up ingredients before the fasting period begins. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, and Christians attend church services where they receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of repentance.
Easter is also celebrated by non-religious individuals, and "Easter eggs" - chocolate eggs - are often exchanged as gifts, symbolizing new life.

Other religious festivals

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs. It usually takes place in October or November and lasts for five days. Diwali signifies the victory of good over evil and the acquisition of knowledge. There are various stories associated with the festival, and it is particularly celebrated in Leicester with grand festivities.
Hannukah, also called the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by Jews in November or December. It lasts for eight days and commemorates the struggle for religious freedom. Each day, a candle is lit on a menorah (a stand with eight candles) to symbolize the story of the festival, where a small amount of oil lasted for eight days.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting for Muslims. It is a time to give thanks to Allah for the strength to complete the fast. The date of Eid al-Fitr changes every year, and Muslims participate in special services and meals.
Eid ul Adha commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as a sign of obedience to God. It serves as a reminder for Muslims of their own commitment to God. Many Muslims sacrifice an animal during this festival, and in Britain, this must be done in a slaughterhouse.
Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is a Sikh festival that celebrates the establishment of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is observed on 14 April each year with parades, dancing, and singing.

Other festivals and traditions

New Year's Day, on 1 January, is a public holiday. It is celebrated on the night of 31 December, known as New Year's Eve. In Scotland, New Year's Eve is called Hogmanay, and 2 January is also a public holiday. Hogmanay is a significant holiday for many Scottish people, sometimes even more important than Christmas.
Valentine's Day, on 14 February, is a day when people exchange cards and gifts with their loved ones. Sometimes, people send anonymous cards to someone they secretly admire.
April Fool's Day, on 1 April, is a day when people play jokes on each other until midday. Television and newspapers often feature fake stories as April Fool's jokes.
Mothering Sunday, also known as Mother's Day, is celebrated on the Sunday three weeks before Easter. Children send cards or buy gifts for their mothers to show their love and appreciation.
Father's Day is observed on the third Sunday in June. Children send cards or buy gifts for their fathers to show their love and gratitude.
Halloween, on 31 October, is an ancient festival with pagan roots. It marks the beginning of winter. During Halloween, young people often dress up in scary costumes and go trick-or-treating. They knock on doors and receive treats in exchange for not playing tricks. Many people also carve lanterns out of pumpkins and place a candle inside.
Bonfire Night, on 5 November, is a celebration where people in Great Britain set off fireworks at home or attend special displays. The origin of this celebration dates back to an event in 1605, when a group of Catholics, led by Guy Fawkes, failed in their attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and assassinate the Protestant king.
Remembrance Day, on 11 November, is a day to honor and remember those who died fighting for the UK and its allies. It originally commemorated the fallen soldiers of the First World War, which ended on 11 November 1918. People wear poppies, the red flowers found on the battlefields of the war. At 11:00 am, a two-minute silence is observed, and wreaths are laid at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.

Bank holidays

In addition to the holidays mentioned earlier, there are other public holidays in the UK known as bank holidays. On these days, banks and many other businesses are closed. These holidays have no religious significance. They occur at the beginning of May, late May or early June, and in August. In Northern Ireland, there is also a public holiday in July to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.

Make Sure You Understand

  • The main Christian festivals celebrated in the UK
  • Other important religious festivals in the UK
  • Various events celebrated in the UK
  • The meaning of a bank holiday